The key to writing an effective report is to just stick to the facts. Focus on the most important details. The best reports give a clear and concise explanation of the topic at hand. Many people believe that a report has to be long and inundated with details, but in truth, an effective report will get right to the point of the matter in a concise manner. Before you start writing the report first create a bulleted list of all of the topics that you need to discuss. You can then organize the report based on this information.
Outline your report before you write it. Create general sections, and then divide those sections into smaller subsections with titles that are descriptive and easy to follow. Make the outline into a table of contents and include the table of contents at the beginning of the report, so the reader will be able to easily reference the report's information.
Determine your audience. Who will be reading this report? This will help you to decide on the tone of the report. Decide whether it's informal or formal. Regardless of the tone you use, write with plain, straightforward language. Avoid "corporate speak," jargon and big words.
Start the report off with an executive summary. Summarize the key points. Use bullets for simplicity and to draw attention to the main objectives of the report. Come back to this executive summary after the report is complete to confirm that you have captured all the most important details.
Provide specific details on each subsection that you outlined in the first step. Divide them into short paragraphs. Each paragraph should not exceed four or five sentences. Avoid elaborate descriptions: State your point, relevant statistics, or suggested actions, and move onto the next section.
Use visuals in moderation to illustrate your points. Graphs, charts and photos that support your findings will help the reader grasp the concepts.
Read the report twice after completing the first draft. Cut out unnecessary words and redundant language. Correct grammar and spelling errors.
Lay out the report text in an attractive template with a simple cover. Microsoft Office has free report templates available at the Microsoft site (see Resources). Encase the report in spiral binding so readers can easily flip through the pages.
Minimize the page count if you want the report to be effective.
Don't allow your reader to get lost or intimidated by the length of the report. You want people to read the report in its entirety rather than simply skim it.
Allow another reader to look at the report to make sure that it effectively conveys your points.