9 Things To Avoid When You Write A Report

9 Things To Avoid When You Write A Report


Writers Write creates resources for writers. In this post, we suggest nine things to avoid when you write a report.

Why are reports written?

Reports provide a written record of decisions taken and they are evidence that issues have been addressed.

One of the main advantages of a report is that it minimises the risk of misunderstanding, especially when complex or technical issues are involved. Most importantly written reports are a permanent record and people can be held accountable.

There are many things you should do when you write a report, but there are also things you should avoid. Here are nine of the most important things you should not do.

9 Things To Avoid When You Write A Report

Do not: 

  1. Play the lone ranger. You need everyone’s input regarding objectives, results, benefits, approach, and budget, to be successful. Recommend. Do not prescribe.
  2. Start with your credentials. Focus on the project or issue. Place your identity and credentials in the background.
  3. Omit the executive summary. Many decision makers read only this (to ensure you understand their need/problem) and the fee structure (if one is included). They leave the ‘how’ up to you. Spend time drafting, reviewing and revising your executive summary.
  4. Focus on your tools. Clients and colleagues care about results not methods. Include everything in the report, but do not waste time explaining how clever your systems and tools are.
  5. Write an encyclopaedia. Keep your report short and uncomplicated. The longer the report, the longer it takes the client or colleague to read it and to make a decision about the contents.
  6. Adopt a ‘one size fits all’ policy. A report template is good, but you should personalise it for every client.
  7. Overload your report with jargon and buzz words. Clients do not understand jargon and they do not trust buzz words. Remove meaningless phrases like ‘world class’, ‘cutting edge’, ‘organisational transformation’, ‘seamless transition’, etc.
  8. Gloss over detail. Make sure names and addresses, figures and facts, are correct. Cut and paste errors cause problems.
  9. Miss your deadline. Ever!

If you want to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme.

Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson

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