There is no set report writing format. However, there are general sections that should be included. Following is information on the format of a report and some tips on good writing.
Report Writing: Formatting the Report Elements
Here are the main sections of the standard report writing format:
- Title Section - If the report is short, the front cover can include any information that you feel is necessary including the author(s) and the date prepared. In a longer report, you may want to include a table of contents and a definitions of terms.
- Summary - There needs to be a summary of the major points, conclusions, and recommendations. It needs to be short as it is a general overview of the report. Some people will read the summary and only skim the report, so make sure you include all the relevant information. It would be best to write this last so you will include everything, even the points that might be added at the last minute.
- Introduction - The first page of the report needs to have an introduction. You will explain the problem and show the reader why the report is being made. You need to give a definition of terms if you did not include these in the title section, and explain how the details of the report are arranged.
- Body - This is the main section of the report. The previous sections needed to be written in plain English, but this section can include jargon from your industry. There needs to be several sections, with each having a subtitle. Information is usually arranged in order of importance with the most important information coming first. If you wish, a “Discussion” section can be included at the end of the Body to go over your findings and their significance.
- Conclusion - This is where everything comes together. Keep this section free of jargon as most people will read the Summary and Conclusion.
- Recommendations - This is what needs to be done. In plain English, explain your recommendations, putting them in order of priority.
- Appendices - This includes information that the experts in the field will read. It has all the technical details that support your conclusions.
This report writing format will make it easier for the reader to find what he is looking for. Remember to write all the sections in plain English, except for the Body. Also remember that the information needs to be organized logically with the most important information coming first.
Tips for Good Writing
Here are a few tips for good writing.
- Keep it simple. Do not try to impress, rather try to communicate. Keep the sentences short and to the point. Do not go into a lot of details unless it is needed. Make sure every word needs to be there, that it contributes to the purpose of the report.
- Use an active voice rather than passive. Active voice makes the writing move smoothly and easily. It also uses fewer words than the passive voice and gives impact to the writing by emphasizing the person or thing responsible for an action. Here is an example: Bad customer service decreases repeat business.
- Good grammar and punctuation is important. Having someone proofread is a good idea. Remember that the computer can not catch all the mistakes, especially with words like “red, read” or “there, their.”
There is a growing consensus among business executives that there is a lack of good writing skills among job applicants, as reported in several recent surveys. Because of this, employers are including writing skills as one of the skills they look for when hiring. Some even ask for a sample report when screening applicants. It is even included in the job description that the job requires a motivated communicator.
Good communication is essential in business. Usually there is more than one individual that is working on a goal, and good communication will allow an exchange of ideas and concerns.
- There can be no team effort without communication, as it is necessary to coordinate the efforts of everyone.
- Bad communication can waste valuable time and effort.
If a team member discovers a short cut or solves a problem, that information needs to go out to every team member so they can benefit from it and reach their goal quicker.