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Characteristics of Bad Report Writing

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Formal writing demands adherence to strict codes. Writing a report -- whether for school or for the workplace -- says much about the professionalism of you as the writer. Turning in a report that's characterized by a lack of organization and grammatical and spelling errors places you, your organization or your department in a negative light. The quality of writing in a report can mean the difference between receiving grant funding and failing the grant process, or acquiring a contract and losing the bid.


A solid report addresses problems specifically; highlights varying methods of analysis; includes particular findings and conclusions, and offers recommendations for improvement. A poorly executed piece is thin, offering mere generalities. According to the Unilearning website, it outlines the information of the report but goes no further.


A poorly written report uses multiple words to express ideas that a skillful wordsmith can convey in one. For instance, a more concise way of saying "Gas prices soared upward toward the sky in 2011" would be to say, "Gas prices soared in 2011."

Poor Spelling/Grammar

Typographical and grammatical errors can be the bane of a formal report. Whether there is one or 10, it can cause a report -- whether a school essay, business document or news story -- to look unprofessional, and the writer to appear uneducated. It can call so much attention to itself that it can distract the reader from the message of the report. Don't just use spellcheck on your computer; use an extra pair of eyes to catch errors your spelling and grammar software may miss.

Stresses Problems, Not Solutions

A poor report stresses difficulties but doesn't offer much information about solutions. It talks about weaknesses rather than strengths, as the Upwrite Press website says. It seeks to make threats rather than suggest changes to right the wrongs. Though it's acceptable to write about problems, balance the discussion of the negatives with a proposal of methods to change them into positives. For instance, it's not helpful to write an entire report about how much money slow workers cost the company without mentioning plans to help them improve their performance rate.

Inappropriate Language

An unsuccessful report uses inappropriate language, such as slang words and colloquialisms. If you write a report in such a way, your audience may fail to take you seriously as a professional. Also, such diction undermines the impact of your overall message. For example, in preparing a report on the 2010 economy, you would say that hiring fell sharply in 2010, rather than writing a phrase such as, "Hiring hit the skids in 2010."

Stilted Prose

Stilted prose is a mistake because it gives the reader the message that you're trying too hard to impress him with your superior knowledge of words. Instead of writing, "Gas prices impacted the company's ability to maximize profits," say "Gas prices hurt profits." To determine whether your prose is stilted, read your sentence aloud to yourself, then to someone else. If it's not something you would normally say in conversation, chances are it's trying too hard.


Repetitious wording is a characteristic of poor writing. It looks lazy. In sentences of this nature, the writer repeats words instead of varying his words by using synonyms. A thesaurus can help combat this. For example, use "firm" for "company" to avoid using one word too often.

Lack of Appropriate Supporting Information

It's a mistake to turn in a report that lacks the proper information that would support claims you made. A well-written report includes a plethora of sources, charts and graphs to support claims you've made. In addition, citing all of your sources is a requirement. Otherwise, you run the risk of a plagiarism charge.


Angus Koolbreeze has been a freelance writer since 2007. He has been published in a variety of venues, including "He Reigns Magazine" and online publications. Koolbreeze has a Master of Arts in English from Western Michigan University.

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