Some of us dread writing reports, but with these quick tips you can make reports easier to write and easier for your audience to read.

Give some thought to your audience. Who are they? Are they customers, colleagues, or your senior team? If you've got an actual person in mind it will be a lot easier for you to get the structure content and tone right.

For example, if you're writing for the senior team, they are likely to be very busy, and will want you to be concise and clearly signpost your conclusions and recommendations. On the other hand if you are writing for an external audience, you'll want to take extra care to avoid jargon that people outside your organisation might not understand.

What do you want your readers to know?

This is the purpose of your report. You know something that your audience doesn't yet. Jot down the two or three main things you want your reader to know. You can then use this as a refence when checking your work. Did you really nail these main points in your introduction and conclusion?

What do you want them to do?

Is your audience going to want or need to take some action after reading your report? If so, jot this down in a few short sentences. This will be the rough draft of your conclusions and recommendation section.

Create a structure that makes it easy for you to write, and for your readers to read

The standard structure for business reports is really helpful. Your ideas will flow naturally, you'll have a place for all your information, and your readers will know where to find the key points.

Executive summary - this should be the first thing in your report, but you should write it last. Make it short and to the point. One page should suffice, even for quite long reports.

Introduction – this is where you state the purpose of your report, who should read it and what readers should do after reading. Does your report refer to a specific project, or period of time, or anything else? If so state that here.

Findings – this is the heart of your report, where you show and explain what you found out, and what it means for your reader.

Methods – use this section to provide details of the data that you collected for the report and an explanation of how you collected the data. If there are any problems with your data, or if you think the readers may have questions about your methods this is the place to explain how you took those concerns into account.

Conclusions and Recommendations – this is where you spell out to the reader what should happen next as a result of the information you've reported. What exactly should the reader do? What should others do? Make it really clear, and don't assume that people will just get it. Nothing in this section should be news, it should flow quite naturally from the Findings section. Bullet points should suffice here, and this section should be quite short.

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