Report Writing

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Report writing manages to creep into just about every job description out there. The specifics--is it a cost report? A customer service report? An efficiency report?--may change from office to office, but the fact remains that bureaucrats are enamored with report writing. There is something extra official about receiving a formally collated and bound report instead of a zippy e-mail or a quick memo. It's as if we gauge our job effectiveness strictly by counting the number of reports we can produce.

In spite of our over-familiarity with report writing, we still manage to get it wrong quite often. Graphs and charts are not by MLA standards. Is that supposed to be Chicago Manual standards? Perhaps it's neither, and the AP Guide specifies the correct protocol after all. Then again, we may have to jettison all three of these references in favor of our own office's "house" style. See how confusing this can be?

The Final Word on Report Writing

The ultimate verdict when it comes to report writing is that there is no single standard. Despite the protestations of pedantic old white men in power suits, there is no single margin setting or spacing standard for all reports. Some documents call for single spacing for direct quotes and attributions; others call for double spacing to achieve better clarity. And sometimes the margins simply must be spread to get the last smidge of text onto that tenth page and not the first paragraph of the eleventh.

When you take a more relaxed approach to writing reports, the process isn't nearly as burdensome as you may think. Granted, you cannot just abandon the rules of good writing altogether, but you can inject a bit of style into otherwise dreary and monotonous projects. Any boss who chastises you for failing to conform to strict handbook standards probably isn't someone you wish to work for anyway.


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