A take-away guide published by Multimedia
(C) Multimedia Publishing Ltd, 1975
A report is a presentation of facts and findings, usually as a basis for recommendations; written for a specific readership, and probably intended to be kept as a record.
When some people write a report, that's all they do: write. But the really successful writers only spend part of their time doing this, and then only towards the end. Before that, they are planning their report - thinking about its purpose, and who is going to read it; deciding what to put in it, and fitting it into shape. And even when they're finally writing it, they'll probably spend just as much time thinking about how best to present their ideas, as actually putting them onto paper.
This guide draws on the experience of such writers, and describes their step-by-step approach, the six stages being:
· Purpose and reader
· Materials and structure
· Style and presentation
The guide has been devised for you to use as a memory aid once you are back at your desk, and working on your next report. We hope that you'll find it helpful, and that you - and your readers - will benefit.
ISBN 0 904301 03 6
© Multimedia Publishing Limited 1975
First published in 1975 by
Multimedia Publishing Limited
3 Lower Camden Chislehurst Kent BR7 5HY England
Written by Bryan Platt
Purpose and Reader
Experienced writers always allow plenty of time for these - the first two stages in report writing, even when they are working against the clock. They know that once these are clear in their minds, they'll save themselves hours of work and worry later on. 1 Defining the purpose
First, the purpose - the major aim - the reason why you are writing the report at all. This will determine what kind of report you write.
a) Factual report
For example, it may be to inform - when, say, there's been an accident, or a new programme of work. What's needed here is a factual report - a straightforward statement of the facts - to give people an accurate record.
b) Instructional report
Or, it may be to explain - for example, when some change is introduced, like a revised appraisal system, or a new job evaluation scheme. Here you write an instructional report - a step-by-step description - to tell people about the new procedures. c) Leading report
Lastly, it may be to persuade - when you are trying to sell your ideas. This kind is usually called a 'leading' report, because you are leading the reader towards making a decision - the one you want him or her to make.
Once the major aim has been defined in this way, subsidiary aims will fall into place - thus, we inform in order to explain, and inform and explain in order to persuade. And usually the result will be a leading report - which is often the most difficult to write, because it has to motivate the reader to do something at the end. 2 Identifying the reader
But who is the reader? What do we really know about them? Often, they are just a dim and shadowy figure in the mind, but we can usually get a clearer picture by asking three questions:
a) What does the reader know?
Two common mistakes in report writing are to overestimate a reader's knowledge-and blind them with science, or to underestimate it - and bore them to tears. We must always try to discover how much the reader knows already, so that we can communicate at their level of knowledge.
b) What are the reader's attitudes?
However good our ideas, they may get thrown out if we don't take account of these, the reader's special interests, likes, and dislikes. The truth has many faces, and it is only sensible to feature the one most likely to appeal to them.
c) What does the reader really want?
The reader is rarely a passive recipient of our report, to be swayed this way and that by our arguments. We'll need to find out just what their hopes and expectations are. Then we shall know what we're up against, and can prepare our case...