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Read This Before You Write a Boring Business Report

Jun 22, 2019 | 8m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • Plan, structure, and write reports that your readers will thank you for
  • The essential components of a report and what to avoid
  • Edit ruthlessly and produce better reports that are easily understood


The Importance of a Clear Report

I am not an editor, yet I spend a large portion of my work day editing and rewriting reports that my staff have written. Why? Because it’s my job to ensure that our department is communicating our messages to the larger organisation clearly. If we don’t, it is likely to cause problems.

Imagine that, like me, you work in the legal or compliance department at a financial institution. You learn that an issue has arisen that may constitute a potential breach of an applicable regulation. You and your team must investigate the facts and circumstances, determine what happened and how or why it happened, assess whether there has been a regulatory breach, and make recommendations to address the situation and prevent it from recurring. You must present this information in a report. This report may be skim-read by a C-suite executive whose time is limited, or it may be read in great depth by lawyers or regulators. It must be concise and easily understood, but it also must be accurate and complete.

Writing such a document can be a daunting task, but an essential one. More than once, a draft report, requirements document, policy, or procedure that I’ve reviewed has turned out to be completely unsuitable, and required complete rewriting. Often, this was not because the writer failed to understand what was required, but because he or she failed to convey the information clearly and concisely.

If your document is rambling, vague, incoherent, laden with irrelevant information or jargon, or if it is not responsive to the task or issue at hand, it is, to put it simply, useless.

Now that you know the importance of being understood, where do you begin?

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