Report Writing – 3 tips for effective reports
I do a lot of training in report writing. Here are 3 of my top ideas for writing
better reports, tenders, proposals, etc. –
so that you engage to the reader, have more impact,
and achieve whatever are your objectives.
1.) May the FORCE be with you…
What your text looks like on the page is important.
You want your report to be visually attractive for the reader to pick up, pore over and take note. And nothing beats a graph or image.
Well, I came upon a handy tool recently, called Force Field Analysis (FFA), which provides a great way to break up your text …. and it is a great way of giving readers a very clear visual overview of what are sometimes multiple/complex things.
An added benefit is that you can use Force Field Analysis in lots of places. To portray the following, for example:
- pros and cons of a project
- strengths and weaknesses
- what you know … versus don’t know
- an ideal situation … versus the reality
- people’s actions … and the likely reactions
FFA is worth using in your reports!
2.) Don’t over edit
Do you pass your reports around colleagues or friends, with several people inserting their own two-pennyworth into the original text? Well, be careful.
There is no harm in picking people’s brains and incorporating their comments. But there are several risks of passing your report around like this:
- Sentences become longer and longer, and paragraphs too – neither of which are good writing practice.
- As a result, sentences lose their clarity – and sometimes no longer make sense.
- And thirdly, people have different writing styles, so your report jumps from one to another – which may well result in an uncomfortable and rather confused reader.
RECOMMENDATION: Think about having a single author, or someone to check your draft with a fresh pair of eyes.
3.) START in the right place
Where do you start, when setting out to write a report? To my surprise, I increasingly discover that many businesses merely take the previous one off the shelf, and follow its format.
I know this is very tempting, and seems like an easy way to save time. But when talking this through with the businesses they admit that, actually, this is big mistake.
Far better to follow whatever structure is suitable for the report/job at hand, they realise.
WARNING: if you follow the same old structure each time you risk following the previous report’s layout, format, tables, etc. – which may not be appropriate this time around.
More seriously, it could mean you miss your report’s objectives.