This report writing guide will help you to write reports that stand out for their clear storyline and high quality writing style. Here’s what it covers.

Story structure

Part One shows you how to apply story structure in your report. It takes the Three Little Pigs fairy tale and turns it into a council report. It also shares the ABT tool with you, that you can use to turn anything (no matter how ordinary) into a story, and then into a report.

An overview of the writing process

Part Two provides an overview of the writing process, and discusses why taking a break between the stages of first drafts, chainsaw editing and polishing your work is much gentler on your brain.

Two pathways to a first draft

Part Three deals with first drafts, and outlines two pathways to get this troublesome stage of the writing process finished as quickly and painlessly as possible. It also discusses the pros and cons of the two pathways.

What to do at the big picture editing stage

Part Four adopts Ann Handley’s phrase of ‘chainsaw editing’ to describe the big picture thinking required to slash everything that’s not needed from your report, and move paragraphs around to achieve a smooth and logical flow to the story you’re telling. It gives you a checklist of what to focus on, to make sure you stay in big picture mode rather than wasting time refining sentences that don’t end up being included in your report.

How to polish your report

Part Five covers both copyediting and proofreading – which means making every sentence as beautiful as possible (copyediting), while also picking up on any errors and inconsistencies (proofreading). Both of these tasks require a patient, painstaking mindset so it makes sense to do them at the same time.

One of the very best ways to make your report better is to use active rather than passive voice. I include five examples of passive/active voice in the guide because this change will make a huge difference to the quality of your writing. Here is one of the examples:

  • Passive: The savannah is roamed by beautiful giraffes.
  • Active: Beautiful giraffes roam the savannah.

It’s easier and quicker to picture the giraffes on the savannah in the second example. The other topics covered in this part of the guide are the need to stick to one tense, and to use consistent formatting and spelling. I go into much more detail on the errors I commonly pick up in council documents in my proofreading guide (and a link to this is included in the report writing guide).

Download the report writing guide

Click here to download your copy of the report writing guide.