The definitions of some words and phrases can be found at the bottom of the page.
The "4-step" guide
to Report Writing
By Christopher Wright
Writing reports in English can be time-consuming but with practice
and a plan you can do it. Here are some practical tips to a
simple “4-step guide” to get you started.
am I writing?
It sounds obvious but if you don’t know exactly the purpose
of your report, how will your readers know? Possible purposes
include: to educate, inform, recommend, persuade, motivate
action and instruct.
are my readers?
Yes, I know you know who your readers are, but how much information
do you know about them? Close your eyes, imagine the person
or people you’re writing about and put yourself in their shoes
asking yourself the following questions:
Who are my readers? (Prioritise your readers based on your
purpose: Key and non-key readers)
What background information or knowledge do they have?
What are their attitudes to the subject matter of the report?
What are they looking to find in the report?
What are their needs?
is my key message?
Once you know the purpose of your report, you must decide what
your key message is. Include it in the executive summary and
also put it in the beginning so the reader knows what follows
will support your key message and will help the readers reach
a conclusion. For example: Option 1 will be the best in the
short term, but option 2 offers a better long term solution.
action do I want my readers to take?
What outcomes do you want? What do you want your reader to do
after reading your report? This is where you deliver your recommendations,
next steps and follow-up.
all of part (1) jot down any ideas you have and slowly expand
them. Group all your ideas together that require a similar action.
A mind-map is an excellent visual tool to organise this.
the report depends on the purpose of your report and the readers.
I always assume that most readers are very busy and so will
not read all the report. Instead they will skim read using your
contents page and executive summary to guide them and they’ll
thank you for doing that.
Most business reports follow this typical structure:
Lets be realistic,
who has time to read a 15-20 page report in English? Readers
will only read your report if it has something that benefits
them. The Executive Summary is your secret weapon to grabbing
the attention of the reader by giving them a taste of the benefits
inside your report. Keep it brief, to the point and ideally
no more than 1 page. It should include, purpose, background
information, key issues, your findings, conclusions reached
The order in which you present your ideas is critical. It
has to have a logical flow, so you can guide the reader and
prove to the reader that your ideas have merit.
in your recommendations and give them importance by using
the active instead of the passive voice. For example “We recommend
that …..” instead of “It is recommended that ….”
and to the point.
each idea and focus on it entirely.
Use layout to help the reader skim read and quickly find the
information they want. Make main ideas and recommendations stand-out
by using bullet points, headings, sub-headings, bolding, graphics
the ideas you’re 100% confident in.
Find two proof
readers you know to read and critique your report.
Firstly someone who is knowledgeable in the area to check
and critique the technical content of your ideas.
Secondly someone with a high level of English or a native
to check and critique the clarity and simplicity of your ideas.
If you can’t
find two proof readers, ask your colleagues if they can recommend
a translator with expertise in your industry or sector.
time-consuming - Something that takes a long time to do. motivate action - Encourages people to do something. put yourself in their shoes - Imagine the situation from somebody else’s perspective . background information - Information about the area you’re writing about that helps
the reader. subject matter - The area or topic you're writing about. reach a conclusion - To arrive at a conclusion deliver your recommendations - To communicate your main ideas jot down - Write down something skim read - Read quickly searching for main or key information executive summary - Main summary grabbing the attention of - To get the attention of logical flow - To follow a logical order proof readers - People paid to read