Report Writing: Style and Structure

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  • Topic: Technical communication, Punctuation, Report
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Report Writing: Style and Structure

Summary

Writing a report can seem daunting at first, but with a solid understanding of the fundamental structure and style used in constructing clear and concise reports, it can be achieved. The standard report format is as follows: Title, Summary, Introduction, Body, Conclusions, Recommendations, Appendix, References and Table of Contents. We will first look at how to prepare a report before the writing begins.

Learning objectives

At the end of the session, students will be able to:

• Write with a specific purpose and audience in mind
• Structure sentences, paragraphs and reports
• Write clearly and concisely

Purpose and audience

Before writing a report you should first identify some key factors, which will help you plan your approach and write with clarity. The first question you should ask yourself is, “what is the purpose of the report?”

Purpose
“What is it about, and what is it for?”
It is beneficial to establish the purpose of your report before you start writing, so that you can think clearly on the subject, and produce a report styled to fit the needs of your purpose. Recognize what your report is for, (informing, instructing, guiding) and focus your writing on explaining the details. If for example, you want to write an instructional report for a team of colleagues, you know that you must focus your writing on providing clear concise instructions, which will allow your reader to comprehend the processes that you are describing.

Audience
“Who are you writing for?”
The second question you should ask yourself is, “who is going to read this report and why?” Knowing your audience will help you determine how long your report should be, how it should be presented, and what level of terminology you should use to best attract and maintain the interest of your reader. If for example, you are writing a report to inform policy makers, you would want to focus on presenting your evidence clearly and concisely.

We will now try an exercise on identifying audience and purpose:

Exercise one

Malaria Prevention
You are a Health worker at the Ministry Of Health and have been asked to write a report on Malaria. You have access to the figures on Malaria incidents in the Country over the last five years, as well as access to the latest info on drugs and other barriers to prevent Malaria.

1. Describe the purpose of your report, and identify your audience.

The sentence

Now that we know how to identify our audience and define a purpose, we will look at how to write clearly and succinctly. Understanding how to structure a sentence is essential to conveying meaning clearly. Following are a few rules of thumb to help avoid ambiguous sentences: • Keep it short and to the point. Many people have trouble with run-on sentences, creating ambiguity by attaching many ideas together with large combinations of commas, semicolons and dashes. Complete one thought and close out your sentence with end punctuation. • Words for words sake. Avoid extraneous words, and parentheses that do not add to your point. • Don’t leave it hanging. Sentence fragments can be just as confusing as run-on sentences. Make sure that you have completed your sentence and that it makes sense, before closing it out.

For a comprehensive explanation of the inner workings of sentences and grammar, you can visit the links below. Sentence help: http://www2.actden.com/writ_den/tips/sentence/index.htm Grammar help: http://www.speakspeak.com/html/d10_english_grammar.htm

We will now look over some common errors that can convolute sentences and obscure meaning.

Sentence Fragment
“Mark has finished his work on time. Since he started planning ahead.”

The second sentence is a fragment here, because it does not contain enough information to complete a thought. Most sentence fragments are phrases that belong to the previous thought....
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