10 tips: advice to self- not necessarily followed.
1. Use an appropriate writing style
Reports offer information.
Resist the almost overwhelming urge to add florid descriptions, narrative twists, cartoons, exclamation marks, swearing, Russian or dialogue.
Your audience doesn’t want to be entertained.
Your audience wants to feel wiser than they were before reading your report.
And no jokes whatsoever.
Reports are not funny.
2. Reap and ye shall sow
A report is an organic sausage; its flavour directly correlates to the quality and density of ingredients contained within.
Gather up factoids of use in a text box when stumped on page 33.
Pull in opinions and lists until your idea harvesting hands are calloused and stained red with opinion.
Only when the field is empty and devoid of material shall ye actually write anything.
3. Evidence everything
4. Weights and measures
The difference in postage price for envelopes under and envelopes over 250 grammes is considerable.
The wise report writer considers this when choosing paper weights and determining report length.
This is experience talking…
5. Cast iron copper bottom ad nauseum proof reading
Proof read, leave, return and proof read and repeat countless times.
Proof read, ignore for a fortnight, return and proof read many times more until nothing on any of the pages makes any sense at all.
Give to anyone who can bear it to proof read, when they stop speaking to you pay someone to do it and then do it again as much as you possibly can, neglecting everything and everyone else in your life.
Finally, deal with the inevitable errors that still make their way to print and hope they’re not too noticeable.
6. Say the same thing 3 times over
Say the same thing in three different ways and it will be read and absorbed.
In other kinds of writing repetition is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs, in story arcs, chapters/scenes and definitely in sentences.
In a report, it’s helpful and makes the argument clear.
Funny that, and yet not funny at all of course, because its a report.
7. When typesetting use no more than two fonts
Its taken a while and it says what it needs to say.
You’re pleased yes, but its been a dry old process.
You open up InDesign and now its CARNIVAL TIME! You cut and paste your findings into text boxes, a literary Sarah Lucas. You slap in obscure fonts you’ve downloaded into your typekit and-yeah- do them in different sizes and colours too. The words you’ve been staring at for so long can suddenly become REALLY INTERESTING. You are WHACKY and CREATIVE and UNIQUE!
And then you realise its virtually impossible to read and inaccessible to anyone without superhero vision.
It then takes a soul obliterating epoch to rectify it all.
Before starting choose two accessible fonts and two sizes. One for titles/boxes and one for the main body of the text. The odd italic and bold is as outre as you’re going to go from here on in.
A report is to be read and understood, not marvelled over.
Just calm down.
8. Don’t put text on top of photos
Only graphic designers can do this and make it look good.
You’re not a graphic designer.
Wind your neck in.
9. Check every box that comes back from the printers
Printers sometimes make mistakes.
The mistakes are sometimes not at the top of the box.
The mistakes can be epic in proportion, double covers, missing pages, upside down chapters, smudges, pages stapled together…
Check every single copy.
10. Expect to be hated in the Post Office
Its rare to send things through the post.
Going to the counter with 60 envelopes which then have to be fed through a post code gleaning machine one by one can cause a distinct atmosphere shift behind your left shoulder.
Don’t go during a busy period.