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Keep Business Reports Brief

The point of a business report is to communicate information, or an opinion, and sometimes to persuade or convince. To do this effectively the two keywords are brevity and clarity.

When you read some reports you wonder what they are trying to achieve. They are too long, too verbose, and too vague. When you get to the end you wonder what was the point of it.

Don't say in a hundred words what you can say in ten. It does not impress in a business environment. You are not trying to win literary prizes. You are trying to transfer information from one person to another. Don't use flowery phrases when you can spell it out with short and simple words.

Don't use jargon when it is not universally understood. Don't use acronyms without an explanation. Explain all specialist terms and abbreviations. Use footnotes or an appendix if this helps to prevent breaking up the flow.

Don't assume pre-existing knowledge in the reader unless you are certain of it. Don't assume that he hold the same initial opinions as you if your report builds upon them. If everything you say flows logically from an initial assumption, you need to establish the truth of that first.

Split up your document into easily read paragraphs. Get to the point early. Then back up what you have said with details if required not the other way round. Some people will read the first paragraph (or the `executive summary') and go no further, unless you have captured their interest immediately.

So remember these simple rules:

Make sure you are clear about your report's purpose
Keep it brief
Keep it simple
Keep it clear
Don't assume

And remember these obstacles to clarity:

Long winded, flowery, language
Obscure vocabulary
Unexplained acronyms and abbreviations
Unexplained specialist terms
Densely packed text
Unsupported assumptions


By Arthur Cooper (c) Copyright 2004
==== Arthur Cooper is a business consultant, writer and publisher. For more of his original articles go to: http://www.arthurcooper.com/ For business articles ebooks and courses, go to: http://www.barrel-publishing.com/

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