Reports are critical business writing documents. They typically convey your company's value to potential clients (proposals) or convey your product (consulting recommendations).
Therefore, business decisions are based upon them. If content is missing or wrong, it is disastrous to your reputation. Here are my top five recommendations for report writing, based on discussions in our report writing training this year.
- Put adequate focus on planning your report, before you attempt to write one word.
- Are you concept mapping your report? You should be. A tool we often recommend for mapping structure and content is FreeMind. It is simple to use, free, imports fairly well into other tools, and exports as both an image and a pdf document. This ten-minute tutorial will have you up and running with this useful tool quickly.
- Make sure the report is framed for the audience, not what you best know or want to talk about. This applies to both content and language. Too often, we write from our perspective, instead of what our audience needs, and that is a mistake.
- Don't information dump. Be sure reports are delineated, and that you segregate and sequence business implications from minor factoids.
- Once you are certain content and organization are strong, hone the language. Be sure it is is clean, free of jargon and beaten to death gobbledygook, and grammatically correct. Then, hone it again until meaning is crystal clear.
Reports are typically a business person's best opportunity to drive sales and convey value in business writing. Sharpen your skills writing this key document, and you will solidify your business value.