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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Report

In the workplace, report writing is a common occurrence. You may be required to write a report to your superior highlighting a summary of your work done for the week or give a report to your team on a survey you conducted. Whatever the purpose of the report is, you want to make sure the report is concise, easy to read, and easy to comprehend. Writing a report is slightly different from writing an essay because a report needs to be communicative instead of impressive – lengthy descriptions and dramatic expressions are out of place in a report. Unfortunately, the use of complicated words and ambiguous phrases is only one of the many mistakes commonly seen in reports. In this article we have highlighted 10 such mistakes that cannot be forgiven – don’t make them.

1. Starting the Report with a Lengthy Executive Summary

First things first, a report should always start with an executive summary and not an introduction. What’s the difference? An introduction gives insight into what your audience should expect from your piece, while an executive summary gives a brief overview of the entire report. Some executives (or clients) make their deductions about your report from just the executive summary – some may never read further.

 Therefore, you should spend time crafting your executive summary – writing experts recommend that you draft it after you are done with the entire report. However, insightful you make your executive summary, keep it short and sweet – long means boring for busy people. An executive summary should be around 150 words.

2. Neglecting Essential Sections of the Report while Writing

Ideally, when you sit down to write a report, you should start by first drafting an outline to guide you. The purpose of this outline is to keep you in check and ensure that you don’t omit any relevant headings. Very often, people omit relevant sections of a report because they were in a haste, and include it anywhere when they remember – don’t do this, it makes your work look cluttered and disorganized.

A regular report should follow the standard content structure of:

  • First a title page,
  • Then an acknowledgment page
  • An executive summary next,
  • A section explaining the aims and objectives of the procedure in focus,
  • Another section for materials or apparatus used and methods followed,
  • The results next,
  • Conclusion derived,
  • Final summary  and,
  • Recommendation.

Depending on your specific industry and niche, you may need to include a SWOT analysis, a page for articles and past research referenced in our report, and a background story to set the mood. However, pages like a glossary and table of contents are not necessary unless your report is quite lengthy.

3. Using Ambiguous Words and Expressions to sound “Posh”

As much as the presence of terminologies in your report is essential, using too much corporate jargon will make your entire work ambiguous and difficult to comprehend. When you write a report, resist the temptation to make it sound sweet or posh by including too many figurative expressions – use simple words and go straight to the point. You can sprinkle in a bit of light humor in your report, but don’t overdo it. If you use too much humor, it could give the impression that you don’t hold your audience in high regard.

4. Summarizing the Full Report, or Turning it into a Story.

Turning in a report that is short and unnecessarily concise gives the impression that you didn’t put in any effort. You should spend time writing your reports, paying attention to each section, and providing all the relevant details. However, your report should not be too long either – you don’t it to become a lullaby that puts the reader to sleep. When you write a report, try to strike a balance in length – not too short, not too lengthy either. If it has to be inevitably long, use bullet points to emphasize key points for the benefit of those that skim through.

5. Skipping Research

A great report is the product of extensive research. When writing a report you should gather insight from a variety of resources. Researching for a report might take weeks, especially to avoid plagiarism, but it’s best to put in the effort and get a beautiful result than present haphazard work to your audience. People can tell if your report was rushed, or if you spent time on it – remember whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well.

6. Showcasing your Artistic Skills

Regardless of how creative and skilled you are, a professional report is not a portfolio. When you fill your report with lots of graphics and dramatic font, it not only distracts your audience from your message, it also makes your work look clustered and a bit childish. Although visuals can be a powerful tool to explain your point, you shouldn’t overdo it. You can use a few graphics to illustrate your points, but they should be spaced out in your report.

7. Making the Report about You

It can be tempting to take all the glory for a team effort when you write a report, however, you shouldn’t do this. When you write a report, give honor to whom honor is due, cite references where they were used, and acknowledge team efforts where necessary.

8. Placing more Focus on the “How” and “Why”. Instead of “What”

When you write a report, focus on the results you got instead of the methods you applied, or the tools you used. The goal of writing a report is to communicate the outcome rather than the reason. You should give relevant details on the procedure, however, it should not overshadow the results obtained.

9. Using Templates in Report Writing

Templates are good as guides, but when you just edit your report into one, you take away the originality. When you write a report on a template, critical eyes can tell – the presence of buzz words like “cutting-edge technology” and “state of the art” are a dead giveaway. For a great report, you should customize your report to fit the level of understanding of your audience, and rhyme with the requirements for your specific industry and niche.

10. Submitting without Proofreading

You should always proofread your report before you turn it in. Grammatical errors and typos may feel like flaws that can be overlooked, but when you read a report with them you would most likely cringe. You should also fact-check – names, addresses, figures, and other minute detail need to be correct as well. The most common reason why people turn in reports that have not been properly vetted is that they were running out of time for the submission deadline. You can avoid getting caught in s a situation by starting your report ahead of time. You can patronize writing agencies too, for professional editing.

A written report is a permanent record, if you get it right, it can make for great reference later. I hope these tips help you ace your next report.

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