Reports are a valuable resource of information and the ability to prepare an effective report is a highly valued skill. Educators, scientists, businesspersons, engineers and various other professionals are required to prepare reports on a regular basis, but often find it hard to draft a great report that conveys the information clearly.
Here are some points to consider that can help improve your report writing skills.
1. A report is not an essay
One of the main reasons for reports not being up to the mark is that they are often confused with essays. There are several similarities between these two forms of writing- they are both formal and structured, and require an analytical approach. However, essays are more idea and opinion based, while reports are strictly fact based. The tone of an essay is usually argumentative, while in a report, it is more of a passive, informational tone.
2. Follow the proper structure
Reports are required to follow a formal structure of several main sections, which are arranged in the proper order, such as: abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussions, conclusion, future steps, and references. A report is not the place to unleash your creative and freestyle writing side. In order to provide the necessary information in a logical and concise manner, reports must follow the proper structure. Reports usually also contain section headings, bullet points, graphs, tables and other organizational tools, to help the reader digest the information better.
3. Familiarize yourself with different types of reports
While all reports have several common structural elements, the actual style and nature of the report can vary depending on the subject, the readers, and the information to be presented. For example, laboratory reports and data analysis reports will be quite different in terms of style and expected content. So, familiarizing yourself with various types of reports can help you draft the perfect report for the particular requirement.
4. Gather and organize the information before you write
In a report, the information must be presented in a brief and concise manner. The information and/or results must also be analyzed, and discussed. So, before you draft the report, take some time to gather all the necessary material for making the conclusions and analyses. Remember to keep out any argumentative or opinionated comments, unless they are supported by the facts.
5. Use graphs, figures and tables appropriately
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a lot of information can be assimilated better from a suitable graph or figure, rather than a lengthy paragraph. Intersperse the report carefully with appropriate charts or tables, but remember to explain the information in the charts briefly in the text as well.
6. Use the correct tense, tone and style
Nothing is more off-putting while reading a formal piece of writing than mixed up tenses and voices. There is no fixed rule in reports about voice, but the general preference is for passive, third person writing. Also, past tense is preferred rather than present tense. However, pick whichever style works for you, and stick with it throughout the report. It is important that the report be consistent in tense, style, format and other elements which can otherwise distract from the main content.
Image credit: Jake Przespo on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CS_Rajan.jpg [/author_image] [author_info]CS Rajan is a freelance writer who loves to write on various topics, and is currently working on her first novel. [/author_info] [/author]