I was reminded this evening while working with my CIPD HR Practice students how many people find report writing arduous and scary. The trouble is very few of us are formally taught the skills of writing reports or indeed, assignments. We are however expected to ‘know’ how to communicate effectively in writing in a business style.
For those people who learned English in the seventies and eighties when schools taught only ‘creative writing,’ many of us missed out on learning the basic rules and structure of our language. This, of course, means that it ‘s hard to know how to set out and argue a clear and unambiguous case in a style that reflects the needs of the readers.
I know because I was thrown in at the deep end when joining a management consultancy as their learning and development consultant. I was sent out to review a client’s training needs by talking to the managers and the staff and then write a report of my findings and subsequent recommendations.
I had never written anything like this before. I knew there was some sort of structure but for what purpose? I was nervous because like many people I thought reports were confusing, time-consuming and packed with complicated and seldom used words. No wonder we all avoided them.
So like many new report writers, I found a template with report headings on the internet and started writing. Wrong! Despite being described as report writing the writing part is the last part of the process. Hemingway, when interviewed about his novels, said: “Writing is long periods of planning and short periods of writing.” And so it is with report writing. The more you think and plan at the front end the easier the writing part will be.
Every written communication involves the writer, the reader and the message itself. For the message to be understood, the writer must clarify his or her ideas, order the information, select the right words and present it in a way which is understandable.
The reader’s role is to read, to check understanding, to provide feedback and to act on the results. As a result, it should be clear that the most important person in this relationship is the reader. The message must be geared to the needs of the reader(s).
Using a mindmap you can examine the key steps to creating a report.
Each step is vital for success After understanding the brief; who it’s for and its purpose; you will research the information then organise it before attempting to write your first draft. This will undoubtedly speed up the process and leave you with more time to polish it and create the finished report.
Want more? Download Report Writing Made Easy published by Quickskills which is packed with exercises and checklists. Study in your own time when you need it.