How To Write Reports That Get Read

What good is a report if your client won�t read it? A great deal of preparation goes into writing a business report and communicating your research findings, and there�s also a great chance that the report will be overlooked. The systematic process of writing a professional report has been used for years, but too often, we forget who our audiences are. The purpose of reporting research findings is for our clients to make the right decisions. However, heavy business jargon and the crawling pace create boredom and frustrate the reader trying to get to the real heart of the findings for improved decision-making. Here are ten simple rules to avoid the unpardonable sins of report writing and actually getting your clients to read the report:

Rule #1 � Know Your Audience

  • First asking yourself a simple question such as, �who are my audience and do they have the ability to understand the information?� will guide you in the choice of writing style and amount of information to be presented in the report. Sometimes you might have several readers with different responsibilities in making decisions. Therefore, in order for the findings to be used to the full limit, multiple versions of the report may be needed for your target readers.

Rule #2 � Know the Purpose of the Report

  • It is crucial that you can state the purpose of the report in a clear, specific, and simple sentence. The purpose can be stated as a question or a statement. This is intended to guide you in the organization and the format of the report. In writing the purpose, you also find yourself accountable to be able to link the research findings back to the stated purpose.

Rule #3 � Grab their Attention

  • Did you know that a powerful headline can make or break your report? Did you also know that it represents only 4 percent of the report? A reader knows that they still have a lot of pages to get through, so don�t lose your audience with your first sentence.

Rule #4 � Organize your Report Logically

  • Creating and following a �chain of logic� outline ensures creating a dynamic flow of your research findings. Move from point A � to point B � to conclusion C. Ask yourself, �what does my reader need to know to draw this conclusion?� This will help you make each point once and help avoid the reader becoming distracted with excessive information.

Rule #5 � Keep the Report Moving

  • You are likely to keep your reader if he/she feels a sense of momentum in the report. Bullet points and white spaces are your strategies in making a favorable pace for the reader. Make sure each section in your �chain of logic� is shorter than the one before. This will help you clear out any repeated information and create a momentum for the reader.

Rule #6 � Keep Your Report Simple

  • Let�s leave subtlety, nuance, and complexity for poets. Don�t use complex sentences. Using simple language without esoteric references will avoid confusion to your readers. They don�t need to work in order to figure out what you�re saying.

  • One sentence should represent one complete thought. If you must use two thoughts in the same sentence, make sure they connect clearly and directly.

Rule #7 � Keep your Report Fat-Free

  • Never use more words than you have to. Use a thesaurus to be more precise. This will ensure you to communicate a complete thought.

  • Avoid unhelpful repetition. Repetition slows down the pace and bores the reader.

  • Eliminate unnecessary words such as �that.�

  • If figures of speech, metaphors and similes can help you state your thought better and faster, by all means use them.

Rule #8 � Keep Your Report Potent

  • Are you writing for a �him� or a �her�? Personalizing the report is a key to keeping their attention.

  • Use the word �you� � it is the most powerful word in the English language.

Rule #9 � Avoid Unintended Impressions

  • Sometimes you can�t catch your own errors and might create an unintended impression with your reader. Sometimes we get too close to the topic to be able to edit our own work. To avoid this, find a �civilian� to read the report.

Rule #10 � Find a Good Proofreader

  • It is good to get downright obsessive about every word. Don�t ruin your credibility with embarrassing typos.

You might feel overwhelmed by these ten simple rules and think the systematic method of writing a business report seems more structured, but individualizing the report for your audience will not bore your reader and will make the information most useful to them. You can also make your reporting more creative and personalized by deviating from the conventional print reporting. Your clients might prefer and better understand the information with Power Point presentations, videos, online reports or even virtual reality. The investment you make in customizing your report will pay huge dividends for your reader, get the research used for decision making � and may even end up helping your career!

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