I’d Like To Write Better Reports

  • I’ve been told that writing good reports at work can really improve your chances for promotions.  Do you agree?  I am okay at writing but I know I could do better.  How can I improve?

The advice you’ve been given is accurate: good writing in general is always valued in a business setting, and peers and management will regard you as more intelligent, more articulate.

It is worth remembering, too, that a well-written report, for example, can often “pave the way” for upward mobility because management may read the report – and its recommendations – even before they know you personally.

Management might be impressed with your insights in the report and value your contribution to the organization.  A supervisor may take some credit for “discovering you” which in turn will help raise her profile with her superiors

Professional writing is the subject of numerous course and workshops, so it will be a challenge for me to summarize good writing in a few paragraphs – but here goes!

There are four key guidelines which should help you as you attempt to improve your workplace writing.  They are: get to the point, be specific, write to an audience and short is always better than long.

The first, get to the point, is obvious but often overlooked even by seasoned managers.  This means you place your most important information – or recommendation – at the start of your report, ideally in the first paragraph. Don’t hide it!

Second, be as specific as possible.  Instead of saying an employee takes “frequent sick days,” for example, detail the exact number, with contrasting data for other employees, if possible. 

My third guideline stresses your audience.  Who are you writing to?  What does he or she want to know?  If you are making a recommendation, what will be your most persuasive point?  Respect your reader by tailoring the message to what is required to make an effective decision.

And, finally, in business and professional writing, short is always better than long: short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.  You don’t need to impress your boss with an amazing vocabulary, and sentences should contain only one thought.  A paragraph that contains two or three sentences is easier to read then one with seven.

One additional thought – which is a “secret” I’ve discovered over the years. After completing your first draft, read it out loud – in the privacy of your home or office.  Aim for a conversational style which simulates your “voice.” A stuffy academic tone will not endear you to anyone!

I wish you well with your report writing.  These brief guidelines should help you, but if you have the time, consider taking a night school course to give you the practical tools – and confidence – you need.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to Simon through our contact page.