You can be the most articulate member of your team, but sit down to do some report writing and you face that blank page terror.
You can stand in front of a crowd and extemporise with fluency and flair but asked to summarise it in written report form and all that fluency dribbles away.
For a lot of people, report writing causes serious angst. See, most people have an authentic 'voice', which, when they connect with, allows them to express themselves forcefully and passionately. But in the written form, at least, fluency can be a rare commodity.
What happens is that for most people when report writing, they tend to write way too much and then get stuck when it comes to the editing and rewrites. They seem to lose sight of their natural style and the writing strengths they already have.
So that's your first step: get clear about your own natural style (a good place to begin is your speaking style - see if you can avoid straight-jacketing it as soon as you take pen to paper or fingers to computer keyboard to do some report writing).
There are two more steps that lay the foundation of good report writing even before you begin to write:
1) Get clear about the purpose of your report: what's it for, what's it supposed to achieve, what do you need it to say? If you're not clear your readers won't be either.
2) Have a point of view: it will help you writing your report (and your readers) if it's clear 'where you're coming from'.
Everything you have to say can then get filtered through that view.
Now To Begin Report Writing
Certainly, initially, it's OK to marshal as much report material as you can.
Use anything that helps you pull your report material together however messy it may look at the beginning: mind mapping, fish boning, making lists, filling up flip charts, etc.
Sort this report material into four parts.
- Introduction to the report (including your terms of reference and background)
- The main body of the report
- Some kind of report summary
Although the summary is written last, it is nearly always read first and may, indeed, be the only part of the report read in depth.
Draw conclusions and point your readers to them.
Now for the report rewrite and report editing: take out that red pencil carving knife and cut to the bone. Take each paragraph and slash it in half by word count. This gets rid of waffle and gives you a simple method for practising brevity.
Then get someone else you trust to read the report; take everything they say with good grace. Everyone will have an opinion about your report writing and in their minds their opinion is right. If you disrespect their feedback they won't feel too generous about giving it again.
That said take any feedback on your report writing with a pinch of salt so that you don't feel too compromised.
Look again at what you've written go for a last rewrite.
Then you can publish your report with pride.
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