How to Write a Simple Report

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Sometimes, simple is best. Instead of fussing and fretting about how you will put together a report you have been assigned, why not go back to basics? Writing a simple report will often, in the end, be more educational and less confusing than one with lots of extra information.

Best of all, if you need to add supplemental information to your basic report, all you have to do is add a section. While these steps are by no means the only way to go, they are a good basis for your simple report.

1 Compile the information

Compile the information you want to include in the report. When starting, don’t restrict yourself by having a preconceived opinion. Allow the evidence to lead you in the proper direction. Once you have these data, you can write the most important part of your report: the one in which you present your conclusions.

2 Compose your executive summary

Compose your executive summary. This introductory section of the simple report should be no more than a page long because the reader, according to Clayton State University, may be too busy to devote complete attention to the other portions of your report. This summary should be a concise explanation of your educated opinion and a summary of the important parts of the rest of your report. If you are advocating that, say, the county turn an empty lot into a park, your executive summary will briefly present your opinion and your best reasons. The other sections, as they must contain more data, should be at least a page long themselves.

3 Expand

Expand your report to include other sections of interest. Writing a simple report means that you should not add a lot of extra sections. Consider which are most important to convincing the audience of your point. Phil Bartle, Ph.D., who maintains Community Empowerment, an online support site for community development workers, advises you to include sections that describe the result you hope to see and your plan of attack. Most importantly, describe why you feel you failed or succeeded. This improves your chances for success in the future.

4 Assemble your simple paper

Assemble your simple paper. Begin with a cover page that contains your name, the date and a short title that summarizes the report's contents. Omit the kinds of features you might find in more conventional reports, such as a table of contents and appendices full of graphs and charts. Include a small graphic or two to complement the narrative of the report. Graphics should be appropriate to the report. For example, take photographs during the course of your research and include a photo in the report. If the report, say, is intended to encourage your city council to build a park, adding the image of a happy family playing at a park will reinforce your words. If you cannot take your own photos, free public domain photos could be included to add interest.

5 Proofread your paper

Proofread your paper; then edit the piece for simplicity. Omit unnecessary words or sentences. Delete sentences that repeat a thought already expressed. Replace thick blocks of single-spaced text with double-spaced text to lighten the look of the pages.

6 Remember that in a simple report

Remember that in a simple report, you must focus the reader’s attention.

Ethan Pendleton is a teacher and writer in Columbus, Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ohio State University at Marion and teaches writing in various capacities in his community.