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Published on Friday, November 16, 2018
Whether you’re writing for a university project or a corporate client at some point it’s likely that most professions will have you writing a report. While for most people it’s not their favourite part of the job, it is a necessary one. When it’s done well, a report is interesting, insightful and can lead to real change.
However, done badly and the report becomes a dull tome, filled with non-essential information and with no real merit or objectives.
Whether this is your first, or fifty-first report there are always ways you can hone and improve your report writing so look at these eight ways you can make an ok report into a great one.
Show your boss, your team and yourself that you really understand exactly what it takes to create that professional finish.
As in all professional pieces of writing divide your report up into clear areas, provide your reader with a clear contents page, executive summary, introduction, conclusion and appendices where necessary.
Your reader deserves a clear and concise report and with all the hard work you’ve put in, your work deserves to be read in its entirety. This form is easy to follow and provides your audience with the means to delve into specific areas quickly and easily.
In a similar vein, make sure you are using a format that is easy to read. Consider double spacing lines and how you will present your text alignment.
A necessary but easy to overlook requirement is to make sure that you have set your page numbering up correctly so your contents page relates to the relevant numbers in your document. Steer clear of fonts that look too cluttered on the page, opt for ones without a serif or tail and stick to clear, easy to read options.
No matter what you are writing about, there will be times when you are asked to express the facts and times when you are asked to express opinion. In your report it should be made very clear, which is fact and which are your own thoughts. Remember not to blur the two, even if it does help make a point for you.
Your opinion is entirely subjective and may not be shared with everyone in your group. This is a particularly important point to consider when writing about projects that experienced problems along the way and may even have failed.
"However tempting it is, most reports will ask you clear questions about what happened, why and how you will fix it. Keep these points in mind when writing up your conclusions", - explains Elana Johnson, a Project manager at Eliteassignmenthelp and Academized.
When writing your report, always remember who it is your writing for. If you are writing for a mainly managerial audience, you will need to tailor your style and use of language accordingly, it may differ from the kind of report you would write for team members or a client, for example.
You would also need to consider carefully the contents of your report. What do your shareholders really want to know about this project that they don’t already? There will be some information already well known to them and it would be a massive waste of time to simply regurgitate facts they already know. Get to know your potential audience well and avoid these pitfalls.
Follow your audience in style of communication. If your management team is informal in its own communications, then feel free to approach your report writing in a slightly more informal style. If they take a more reserved approach, then you should do the same. Always bear in mind who you are writing for.
There’s nothing worse than seeing a report littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. It undermines all your good work and research and makes your report feel like poor quality. Instead, take time to iron out any inaccuracies and use online tools to check your work for you.
Send a copy round to team members for proofreading and to check your flow. They will be able to tell you directly if you have reached your audience.
Don’t let a fear of making mistakes hold you back. If you need extra backup, then look no further than these online editing tools, perfect for getting it right. They provide everything from editing to generating ideas and will provide you with the confidence to submit an error-free body of writing.
- Stateofwriting and Academ advisor: two online editing and proofreading tools to check your content and spot mistakes
- Essayroo: a fantastic resource for checking your business language and also offers tips, tools and checkers.
- Viawriting: an online editing tool, to help you pick out any grammatical or spelling errors and make corrections.
- Boomessays and UKWritings: two online formatting tools that will help shape your report and mould into a stand out piece of writing.
- Mywritingway : a business writing guide that will offer you great advice on how to use the right language to create your report.
- Paper fellows: a powerful tool for editing your grammar and offering top grammatical tips. Check out the review on Revieweal.
While too many pie charts or tables can be off putting, when done correctly a visual aid can help enhance your information and provide the reader with a very clear summary of the point you’re trying to make.
If you are using statistics outside of the project from another source, always remember to provide references.
Feel free to provide case studies and academic articles to help make your report stronger and if it helps to illustrate or clarify a point.
As mentioned before, make sure that anything you quote as fact is attributable and separate this from your opinion.
It’s tempting to launch straight into a project write up, particularly if you have had a very good or a very bad experience working on it. However, it would be unwise to rush straight in, without bearing in mind several factors: decide the scope of your project. Is it just a fact-finding exercise, an opinion piece or will it delve into the project in depth combining both of these elements.
With this in mind, take some time to very accurately plan each section and make sure you are fulfilling the scope of the project report with every paragraph you write.
Readers want their questions answered and depending on your audience, you will need to think carefully about what these questions and how you are best positioned to respond.
Your most valuable resource when writing an in-depth project report. For those who worked with you on the project you will be able to consult them to see if they remember things the same way you do. Where problems occurred you will be able to figure out what went wrong and where you would change the process to avoid these mistakes next time. For times the project was a success finding a consensus as to why, is also extremely helpful.
After you have finished your report, your colleagues will be the people best placed to offer you honest and constructive feedback. Rather than being offended if they disagree with you, take their comments on board and amend your writing where needed. This will produce a well-rounded, considerate report, sure to impress a reader.
Despite there being an immediate sense of relief as you type out the final few pages, you should not assume that you have finished your report with the last full stop.
There are several more stages your report will have to go through before it is fit for publishing and don’t skip them, they mean the difference between a perfect and below par report that no-one will read.
Read first for errors, look for spelling, typos and grammatical howlers that stand out; by all means use a spell checker but do not rely on it entirely, use your own eyes and run it through some of the tools mentioned above.
Read again for sense and flow. Does it read well, with no hard sentences or lines that require too much deciphering? If you have to read a sentence more than twice to fully understand it, then delete or re-write it.
Finally, do one last read through and make sure you aren’t missing any key areas or have forgotten to put a key statistic in. These read throughs will pick up all the small things that make a big difference.
When it comes to report writing, for whichever audience you’re aiming it at, there are some hard and fast rules that will guarantee your work is picked up and read. Don’t fall into the trap of writing endless pages of jargon-heavy wording in order to fill space and appear knowledgeable. Your audience will see through that straight away. Instead produce fact filled, opinion led, beautifully presented copy, ready for the CEO, a course lecturer or your team to dissect.
Freddie Tubbs is a communication manager at Oxessays. He also works as a business writer at Bigassignments, and writes columns at the Vault and Australian help blogs.
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