George and Mary-Lynn

How To Write A Great Report: 7 Tips To Make Your Next Report Stand Out

By Bigg Success Staff
03-07-08

Career Builders

report  

Executive Summary

Even though this is the first thing your audience will read, you should write this section last. That’s how you know exactly what to say to give your audience a good overview.

You’ll stand out if you learn to write reports well. Your report should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. This article discusses seven tips to set you apart from the crowd. These tips will demystify the report-writing process. Once you’ve read this article, you’ll be ready to look for your opportunity to put it to work!

Introduction

For some people, writing a report is almost as terrifying as speaking in public. The only way to get over your fear is to dive in and write a report! Then do it again, because if you learn to write reports well, you’ll stand out from your peers.

You’ll start the main part of your report by introducing your audience to your topic. Then you’ll get into the body of your report. Finally, you’ll offer your conclusions and recommendations. After you’ve written all that, you’ll jot down your Executive Summary.

So let’s get started. Just remember – tell them three times:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them (your introduction)
  • Tell them (the body of your report)
  • Tell them what you told them (your conclusion)

We thought it might be helpful to lay out this article like a report.
Our articles don’t normally look like this. However, it seemed like the best way to illustrate the points.

With that in mind, we want to provide you with the framework for effective report-writing.

We’ll lead you through seven tips to make your next report stand out.
#1 – Determine its purpose. What should it accomplish?
#2 – Write to your readers. Who is your audience?
#3 – Proceed in an orderly manner. Research – Write – Summarize.
#4 – Length matters. Cover your topic, then quit.
#5 – Flow logically. Lead the reader from start to finish.
#6 – Appearance matters. Make it visually appealing.
#7 – Review and revise.

7 Tips To Make Your Next Report Stand Out

#1 – Determine its purpose
Before you do anything else, clearly define what your report should accomplish. Are you writing this report to persuade or inform? Will it project into the future or review the past?

If you were assigned this report, discuss its aim with the person who put you in charge. Don’t proceed until you fully understand why you’re doing what you’re doing because everything else flows from that.

#2 – Write to your readers
This is really closely related to the first tip. You can’t write to your readers if you don’t know who they are. Are they experienced or inexperienced? Insiders or outsiders?

Don’t use words, including jargon, that they won’t understand. Provide supplemental information at the end of the report if it will help. Resist the temptation to tout your horn too loudly – your report should do that for you.

Keep your audience at the top of your mind throughout the rest of this process. You’ll look your best by looking out for your readers.

#3 – Proceed in an orderly manner
Now that you know why you’re writing the report, and to whom you’re reporting, you can begin doing your research. Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, you’re ready to start writing.

When you’ve finished writing everything else, you’re ready to write your executive summary – the last thing you write will likely be the first thing your audience reads.

#4 – Length matters
Your report should be long enough to accomplish its purpose, but not a single word longer. Anticipate questions and objections and provide responses.

Don’t feel the need to fill space. Don’t be redundant. Communicate effectively – end of story!

#5 – Flow logically
It may sound silly, but some people forget this simple rule – your report should have an introduction, the body, and a conclusion.

It should flow easily from point-to-point. Lead the reader through a logical progression of the topic from beginning to end. Your first point should naturally flow into the second and so on.

#6 – Appearance matters
Your report should be visually appealing. Your readers should get a sense of what you’re saying just by scanning it. Be liberal in your use of headers and sub-headers.

Use color if your budget permits. Present large amounts of data graphically – in a chart, a graph, a table, or some other illustration. Call out important points. Be creative, but make sure it doesn’t interfere with your message.

#7 – Review and revise
Once you’ve written everything, including the Executive Summary, you’re ready to review and revise your document. You should do this once and then put it away, at least overnight.

When you come back to it, review and revise it again. Then put it away. Read through it at least one more time. You should also try to get someone else to review it for you. A fresh set of eyes will often catch mistakes that you won’t.

Concluding Thoughts

You should conclude by reviewing your key points, pulling all your points together, and calling your audience to action.

In this article, we discussed seven tips to make your next report stand out.

#1 – Determine its purpose.
#2 – Write to your readers.
#3 – Proceed in an orderly manner.
#4 – Length matters.
#5 – Flow logically.
#6 – Appearance matters.
#7 – Review and revise.

Now that’s not so intimidating, is it? Report-writing is just a simple, logical process. So now you have the knowledge, but it won’t do you any good if that’s as far as you go.

Look for an opportunity to put this knowledge to use. Then let us know how it goes!

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