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How to write a good report…

Dear H2

I have recently been asked by my manager to write a report for distribution to the senior management team about some proposed changes to the structure of our department, and to some of the central systems. I have plenty of ideas on the subject - in fact I've been driving my boss crazy over the last few months by talking about it whenever I get the chance!

The problem I have now is that I don't feel confident enough to put all my ideas down on paper, and I'm worried that I won't get the changes agreed because of my lack of report writing skills. Can you give me some pointers to help me to put something together that won't be an embarrassment?!

Yours in anticipation

K

Dear K

Firstly try to stay focused on the positives - you do at least have lots of ideas and plenty to say on the matter! Many people lack confidence when it comes to writing a report for the first time. Sometimes it can feel like it is a huge hurdle that has been put in your way to try to make it more difficult for you to get your point of view heard...

Anyway, don't worry too much, as there are some simple rules that you can follow which will help you to produce a credible document that will keep your reputation in tact:

First of all, think about what you want the report to achieve - as you're trying to get your ideas taken on board, you need to make sue that it is as persuasive as possible. The easiest way to persuade others is to provide watertight evidence of the need for change, and then to express your ideas in terms of benefits to them (the company as a whole), rather than the convenience for you. The information in a good report should be reliable - either containing the evidence itself, or making reference to the source. You can include evidence that you have gathered first hand or that you have researched – For example, a report on the validity and viability of a new piece of work may have its factual evidence drawn from a set of governmental or other statistics.

Secondly, your report should be clear and concise, unambiguous, accurate and well organized. Structure your ideas into logical sections, and use bold headings to make it easy for the reader to navigate their way through. An 'Executive Summary' at the beginning is a very useful way of providing an overview of what you're proposing and why - so that anyone who doesn't have time to read the whole thing will still be able to get the gist.

Finally, we recommend that you look around for some similar types of reports that you know have subsequently been approved - if the style and structure of these succeeded in the past, then chances are that it will also go down well for yours... assuming that your ideas are good ones of course!

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