Themes > Legal English > Report writing
Report writing

Many business people have to write lengthy and detailed reports for colleagues and clients. The advice below may help you to write more effective reports.

Planning the report

Before you begin writing, plan how you are going to present the information in your report. Decide how many sections of the report you need.

Headings

Decide what headings you will give each section. Headings should be short, clear summaries of each section. They are important because they indicate the content of that section to the reader. Also, they help to make the information more accessible as they can act as reference points, for example, during a meeting.

Layout

The better the layout, the more attractive the report. The more attractive the report, the easier it is to read. You can improve the layout by:

  • using a clear, simple numbering system for the sections,
  • laying out the sections under clear headings, and
  • bulleting and/or indenting key pieces of information.

Paragraphs and Sentences

A paragraph should deal with one topic. The first sentence should set the topic and the rest of the paragraph should develop it. Each paragraph should reach a logical conclusion and, where appropriate and possible, should prepare the reader for the next topic. The overall clarity of the paragraph depends on the clear progression of the ideas it contains and, of course, the clarity of the individual sentences.

Sentences can be diffficult to understand if they are too long and complicated. Remember your reader. If s/he is not an expert in the subject try to avoid using technical or jargon words wherever possible. Use simple language. Keep your sentences short.

(Notice how the second paragraph in this section follows on logically from the first. The conclusion of the first also leads naturally leads into the second paragraph.)

Improving your report writing

Read good reports written by native speakers of English. Study the way the writer organises the information. Look at the different layouts used. Notice how the writer leads the reader through the report. And remember: Practice Makes Perfect!

One important way of helping the reader through a long report is to refer the reader to points elsewhere in the text. Look at the reference phrases below. Which phrases refer forwards (>>) (to a point which will be made later) and which backwards (<<) (to a point which was made earlier)? Some phrases can refer either backwards or forwards (<< or >>).

Number one has already been done for you.

1. As mentioned above, ___ 6. The steps outlined above
2. The following procedure... 7. See page 3 above,
3. As explained below, 8. The procedure described below
4. As follows, 9. The above mentioned procedure
5. Given the above, 10. As shown in the table on page 3

   


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