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Chapter 5. Say It Right—Write It Right > Writing Reports That Hit the Mark - Pg. 58

Say It Right--Write It Right 58 Know Your Reader The language and form of your report should be tailored to the person or persons who will be reading it. As pointed out earlier, an engineer writing a report for nontechnical managers should try to couch it in language that is as nontechnical as the subject permits. If the use of technical language is essential to the report, the writer should define and clarify the meaning of the technical terms the first time they are mentioned in the report. It's advantageous to know what your reader expects in terms of language, details of content, graphic material, and the like. When writing a report for your boss or another manager with whom you have regular dealings, you probably know whether he or she prefers terse, precise reports or a great deal of detail; whether that person prefers graphs or charts to statistical tables or likes to see both; whether rounded approximations are preferred to exact dollars and cents. If you are not sure, ask. A Format That Tells and Sells Who should write the final report? It is usually best to assign only one person to do the actual writing. This could be the team leader or one of the team members. The writer will compose a draft of the report. This will be read by the other associates, who will make suggestions, and then a final version will be written. Although there is no ideal report style, the following guidelines will help make the report easy to read and understand: · State the purpose."As you requested, here's the information about the XYZ software programs." · Summarize your findings and recommendations.State your recommendations at the beginning of the report. · Provide supporting material.Include the details that support your summary and recommenda- tions. Use charts, graphs, and tables if they clarify or reinforce the information in the report. Watch your language. Keep it clear and to the point. The variety of fonts and styles now available in most word processing software enables you to present your reports in very attractive and inter- esting formats. Take advantage of this option, but use fonts that are easy to read. How long should a report be? Long enough to tell the whole story--and not one word longer. Avoid repetition. A common fault in report writing is stating the same idea over and over in different words. FYI The "team" that developed the Declaration of Independence consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. But one person, Jefferson, was assigned to write the document. The Final Step Before submitting the report, proofread it carefully. Even a good report loses credibility when it has spelling errors, poor grammatical structure, or sloppy typing. Figures should be checked carefully. Reread it. If possible, have other team members read it. Make whatever changes are needed. Read it once more to ensure you are satisfied.