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Procrastination or fear. What stops you writing a business report?


Very few of us are formally taught the skills of writing for business.  Despite that we are usually expected to know how to communicate effectively in writing in a business style.
For those people who were educated in the halcyon days when schools taught only ‘creative writing’ many of us missed out on learning the basic rules and structure of our language.  This of course means that it is difficult to know how to set out and argue a clear and unambiguous case in a style that reflects the needs of the readers.
I know because I was thrown in at the deep end when joining a management consultancy as their learning and development consultant.  I was sent out to review a client’s training needs by talking to the managers and the staff and then write a report of my findings and subsequent recommendations.
I had never written anything like this before.  I knew there was some sort of structure but for what purpose?  I was nervous because like many people I thought reports were difficult, time consuming and packed with complicated and seldom used words.  No wonder we all avoided them.
So like many new report writers I found a template with report headings on the internet and started writing.  Wrong!  Despite being described as report writing the writing part is the last part of the process.  Hemingway when interviewed about his novels said” Writing is long periods of planning and short periods of writing.” And so it is with report writing.  The more you think and plan at the front end the easier the writing part will be.  What you are setting out to do is to put together a report which will inform, evaluate and advise your readers accurately, briefly and clearly in the shortest possible time.
Every written communication involves the writer, the reader and the message itself. In order for the message to be understood the writer must clarify his or her ideas, order the information, select the right words and present it in a way which is understandable.
The reader’s role is to read, to check understanding, to provide feedback and to act on the results.  As a result it should be clear that the most important person in this relationship is the reader.  The message must be geared to the needs of the reader(s).
Charlotte Mannion is the founder and a director of Quicklearn.  As well as delivering communication skills learning to large and small groups she has written a number of Useful Guides for Pansophix.  Her latest the Useful Guide to Report Writing was published on the 7 November 2011 and available through [email protected]

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