A lot of people need to write reports for different reasons. There are informative and analytical reports created in the fields of math, science, engineering and medicine and so on and so forth. When reports have obtained such a high-level of demand, is there a need to write a write a report on reports and report writing?
1.2 WHY WRITE A REPORT ON REPORTS
A report providing information on reports and report writing is useful to anyone who needs to write a report and needs to know more about certain aspects of report writing. This report helps the reader gain the much sought-after and useful skill of report writing.
1.3 WHAT THIS REPORT AIMS TO ACHIEVE
This report aims to help its readers learn more about reports through an active discussion of reports and certain characteristics of report writing. The reader of this report should be better equipped at writing a report after having read this report.
1.4 SECTIONS OF THIS REPORT
The first section of this report is on the definition of report and a discussion on the importance of report writing. Next, this report will aid the reader on how to identify the aim and audience of a report. Subsequently, this report will provide a discussion on the causes of poor report writing. Finally, the use of headings and numbering will be examined in this report.
- MAIN TEXT
2.1 DEFINE A REPORT AND DISCUSS THE IMPORTANCE OF REPORT WRITING
2.1.1 Definition of report
Before this paper delves deep into characteristics of and discussions on report writing, the term report should be defined. Oxford dictionary provides several definitions of the word report, with the word used as a verb and a noun in different circumstances (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018). The definition that this paper uses, which is used to describe a report created to provide information or analysis on a topic, is as follows:
An account given on a particular matter, especially in the form of an official document, after thorough investigation or consideration by an appointed person or body (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018)
It can be deduced from the above definition that reports are accounts and, although coming in different forms, usually are presented in the form of an official document. All reports have a subject and the writer of a report undergoes a process of, “investigation or consideration,” while writing his or her report.
2.1.2 Importance of report writing
Report-writing is important because it is an exercise of writing; thus, allowing writers to record their work. Reports are proof of work done and are, “the major product of… (one’s) project or investigation,” (Bowden, 2004). The logic behind the importance of report writing is related to its utility. That is, without reports important information will be forgotten and all major discoveries will be lost in time (as if they were not discovered in the first place) (Bowden, 2004).
2.2 HOW TO IDENTIFY THE AIM AND AUDIENCE OF A REPORT
There are certain questions one can ask when identifying the aim and audience of a report. Considering the importance of writing a report with an aim and knowing your audience, it is equally important to learn how to identify the aim and audience of a report. Knowing the aim and audience of your report is also beneficial. This is because it helps the writer of a report direct his or her writing and decide what to include in his or her report. The process of identifying the aim and audience of a report is tackled below.
2.2.1 How to identify the aim of a report
As alluded to earlier, one can identify the aim of their report through an exercise of question-asking. The two main questions one needs to ask himself or herself is, “… what (is the writer) … trying to achieve,” and, “… what is the aim of writing?” (Turk and Kirkman, 2005, p.17). Asking these two questions will help the writers identify the aim of their report.
2.2.2 How to identify the audience of a report
The process of identifying the audience of a report is like the identification the aim of a report. Both processes use question-asking to reach their outcomes. Bowden in Writing a Report and Turk and Kirkman in Effective Writing have outlined five questions each on the identification of the audience of a report (2004) (2005). The first three questions are the same and they are, “are the readers alike or mixed? What do they already know? What else do they need to know?” (Bowden, 2004, p.17). The remaining four questions are on the report-friendliness of your audience, the time they wish to spend on your report, the attitudes of your audience and the, “… psychological and physical contexts within which the new information will be received,” (Turk and Kirkman, 2005, p. 22). Once these questions are asked, the writer will be in a better position to identify the audience of their report.
2.3 DISCUSS THE CAUSES OF POOR REPORT WRITING
2.3.1 Bad teaching and difference in audience and purpose
The two major causes of poor report writing are bad teaching and the difference in audience and purpose of school and professional reports (Turk and Kirkman, 2005). Some writing rules taught in school, such as those in favor of using big words and against repetition of words in the same sentence (Turk and Kirkman, 2005), are not useful in professional report writing. The audience of a professional report usually include people who do not know about the topic, unlike in school where the audience is usually well-informed (Turk and Kirkman, 2005). As a result, the writer’s purpose in school and the workplace differs from each other (Turk and Kirkman, 2005).
Most of the causes of poor report writing are related to the style of writing a writer adopts. The causes of poor report writing can be determined by learning how not to write a report. Report writers are meant to utilize a clear, concise and direct style (Bowden, 2004). The style of report writing should also be unobtrusive; therefore, writing that is, “pompous… ostentatious… ambiguous… or difficult to follow,” (Bowden, 2004, p.72) should be avoided. Furthermore, the inclusion of unnecessary or irrelevant information is also characteristic of poor report writing (Munizzo and Musial, 2010).
The words a writer chooses can also determine the quality of his or her report writing. There are certain guidelines on how to avoid poor report writing by, “choosing… words carefully,” (Bowden, 2004, p.76) The guidelines are as follows:
Prefer plain words… avoid pointless words… avoid overwriting and padding… avoid redundant words… avoid the careless position of words… prefer the positive… try to avoid qualifying introductions… place emphasis at the end of the sentence… prefer English words and phrases to foreign words… avoid sexist language… (and) use warm words (Bowden, 2004, p.76-79)
2.4 THE USE OF HEADINGS AND NUMBERING
2.4.1 Discussion and insight into heading
The use of heading and numbering in report writing is a conscientious topic which has caused plenty of debate. It is generally agreed that heading and numbering should be used in a report but the issue with this topic is how one should head the sections and subsections of their report and how to use numbering in their report. Turk and Kirkman have laid out a proposed structure for headings of a report in their book Effective Writing: (2005). In a chapter of the book titled the use of headings and numbering, they state that through the use of, “…numbering… indenting… capital and lower-case letters… (and) bolding… (or) underlining… in type written texts,” one can showcase, “…the relative hierarchy,” and structure of the sections of their report (Turk and Kirkman, 2005, p.66). One of the points of contention on this topic is to do with Turk’s and Kirkman’s suggestions on the use of indenting.
2.4.2 Rules on Indentation
Should one indent headings, subheadings and text? Does this create environmental and economic issues to do with paper wastage (Turk and Kirkman, 2005, p.67)? Turk and Kirkman argue that any form of indentation which helps the reader is not to be considered as a waste of paper (2005). However, if one sought to manage their paper usage more efficiently they could indent only the subsections of their report and leave the text un-indented (Turk and Kirkman, 2005).
2.4.3 Numbering Systems
Another point of debate is to do with the use of numbering. Which system of numbering, “the decimal system, mixtures of numbers and letters, (and) the HMSO system,” (Turk and Kirkman, 2005, p.67) should one use? The decimal system seems to be the champion of numbering systems, at least according to Turk and Kirkman (2005). This is because the decimal system is better-equipped for aiding the reader of a report in finding their place and with the general organization of a report (Turk and Kirkman, 2005). The other two systems are confusing and are not favored to the decimal system (Turk and Kirkman, 2005).
2.5 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Report writing is an important skill which this report aims at helping their reader acquire through the discussion on reports and certain aspects of report writing. The word report has many definitions, but reports treated as accounts on matters is the best definition for school and professional reports. Reports are important because without them information would be lost. One can identify the aim and purpose of his or her report by asking the right questions. Bad teaching and differences in audience and purpose are the main causes of poor report writing. There also systems of heading and numbering which help a writer better organize his or her work.
Asking the questions regarding aim and audience of a report laid out in this report helps the writer identify the aim and audience of his or her report. Knowing the causes of poor report writing also helps a writer with their own report writing task. It is important to note that a common theme in this report is the emphasis on making the reader’s job easier. This includes the discussion on indentation, waste-management and readability. When in doubt, indent. Doing so values the readability of a report. If one were to manage their paper usage, then he or she can indent only the headings but leaving the text and headings un-indented would be an error of poor presentation and cause confusion.