12 easy steps to better report writing


7 min • 18 March, 2021

Writing reports often feels like the most tedious, annoying, albeit necessary task any business professional must carry out. And yet, reports are valuable. By sharing the story behind your data, a report can help you develop shared objectives, enhance innovation, expand achievements and prevent repeating mistakes.

What is a report?

A report is a well-structured written and/or visual description provided in response to a particular objective, goal, or request. A report is meant to provide three points:

  • A detailed account of a project or a specific item
  • Challenges faced in a project or something
  • A solution to the problem

Effective report writing serves as a reference for providing valuable information to support future predictions, strategy updates, and financial decisions.

It is essential to understand that reports are meant to be informative. They act as a medium between the writer and the reader, making it imperative for you to think about your reader when you write.

There are different types of a report with a distinct writing style. However, the various types are meant to communicate information compiled from specific research and data analysis issues. The four major types of reports are:

  • Contractual reports - collecting data about entity relationships
  • Project reports - collecting data about the progress of ongoing activities
  • Evaluation reports - collecting data about past events
  • An annual report - multi-source, multi-output

While there are differences between those four types, the 12 rules to better your report writing are the same:

  1. Know your brief
  2. Always make a plan before you write
  3. Organize your facts and information
  4. Make use of a structured layout for your report
  5. Know your readers
  6. Make it simple
  7. Use data and information you can proof
  8. Always edit and proofread
  9. Engage your report readers
  10. Use linking words frequently for readability
  11. Use Illustration
  12. It’s crucial to conclude well

No more delaying. Let's get started!

STEP 1: Know your brief

As a first step, you will usually take possession of a simple report brief, including analysing and who the report is intended for. What that means, is that you want total clarity onto what is being asked from you. Do you know exactly which metrics/numbers/information you need to include? What is important to show in the report, and why? Those are the first questions you should answer to make sure that you know your report brief inside and out.

STEP 2: Always make a plan before you write

It's crucial to start planning your content, which involves researching and gathering relevant information. Time spent on planning report writing will make it easier for you to develop your ideas with little stress.

Without planning, your content will not be structured, you will spend more time than you should, and sadly you will not develop a quality, practical and purposeful report write-up. The planning stage is meant to help you clarify your purpose and to focus on your project.

STEP 3: Organize your facts and information

Facts and data are the building blocks of information; using raw data to craft a top-quality report is a skill you need to learn.

Effective report writing for commercial purposes requires you to learn what to say and know how to say it. Imagine what is most important about what you're reporting on to find out the "what." outcomes of your mission.

When you know what you want to say, you will work out writing it. To start with, it's crucial to split all the facts or theories that will support your claim into logical sections. Only then will you have a clearer idea of how to develop your points.

STEP 4: Make use of a structured layout for your report

While it is essential to plan your report writing, it is vital to make use of a precise layout so that the readers can understand each section of your report.

Breaking up your report into sections and subsections will ensure your content is concise and understandable. Break down your report into an executive summary, introduction, the main body of your report, and a section containing your conclusions and recommendations.

STEP 5: Know your Readers

You might ask where this fits in. Report writing is more or less a facet. Since we have different writing types, it is understandable there will be other ways to express a report. For example, your readers might prefer you to express your report in a graph, infographic, or even flow chart rather than lengthy descriptions.

STEP 6: Make it simple

The objective of report writing is to convey your message in a simple form. This makes it easier for readers to appreciate what you're trying to say in your report.

Therefore, it is crucial to keep it simple, for example, when reporting complex and technical issues. The average non-techie can quickly grasp the information in your report and decide on it.

STEP 7: Use data and information you can prove

When writing a report, it's important to respect intellectual property and copyright laws. If you are using data or content that is 100% original and yours, you don't have to worry.

But if you want to use a piece of information belonging to someone else, then give credit to them by attributing the person/company's work in references, bibliography, and in-text citation.

STEP 8: Always edit and proofread

Editing and proofreading are standard procedures you must imbibe if you are serious about producing an error-free and grammatically correct report. Let's be frank 'to err is human. Naturally, humans are susceptible to making mistakes, so it would be helpful to use tools that can help you craft a perfect report (like Grammarly or Overwrite). This software will help you polish your report content and give you that confidence boost you need for presentation.

STEP 9: Engage your report readers

To be candid, a report that doesn't engage readers is not a report. Don't forget that I mentioned earlier that a report is meant to be informative and exclusive content.

It needs to entice, inform, and entertain your readers with the accurate choice in structure, voice, and tone, thereby converting them patrons and eventually generating acknowledgement.

STEP 10: Use conjunctions frequently for readability

Use "linking-words" that connect two or more sentences to form a logical flow. Words like "however", "therefore", "henceforth", and the sorts. Using conjunctions should simplify your writing. Think about the difference between using two entire sentences, and two conjoined sentences. "Robyn positively ate a slice of cake. Robyn is hungry despite having eaten that slice" VS "Robyn positively ate a slice of cake, however she is still hungry". That's an extreme comparison, but you get the idea.

To be specific, subordinating conjunctions and correlative conjunctions are what you can use to get the reader to jump from one concept to the other, keeping them engaged while communicating clearly. It's a little writing trick that works.

STEP 11: Use Illustrations

A quality report is incomplete without suitable illustrations. The report, especially an evaluation report or an annual report, could contain data and information that would better be expressed using a data flow model or a chart. Analysis can better be understood when they are placed on charts. Trends and projections are merely two typical use cases for adding charts into a report and therefore helping the reader to “get it” immediately.

STEP 12: It’s crucial to conclude well

While it is crucial to start well to capture the reader's attention in report writing, it is also necessary to end well. You don't want to be a striker that doesn't score goals, right?

On a more serious note, always ensure your lasting words in your report are something that triggers readers to take action or a sentence that continues to reverberate in your reader's mind.

And that’s our 12 steps list to help you write better reports. Is there anything we missed? What are your secret weapons when it comes to report writing? Let us know!

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