21 September 2005

How to write a better report or white paper

Irene Ng, professor in marketing at the University of Exeter, has some great advice on how to improve your report or white paper. She applies five rules:

1. Start at the End. We usually write papers or reports in a historical way, finishing with our results and conclusions. But readers usually want to know our findings before learning how they were obtained. Technical reports and learned articles are not detective stories. We therefore should start at the end, giving our main results and conclusions first.
2. Be Prepared to Revise. Few people can write clearly without revision.
3. Cut Down on Long Words. Technical writing is often dense and heavy. It can be made more readable by using shorter sentences and fewer long words.
4. Be Brief. Brevity is best achieved by leaving things out. This works at all levels: sections, paragraphs, sentences, and words.
5. Think of the Reader. We must consider what our readers will do with our report or paper. What will they want to communicate to others?"

She gives a deeper explanation of each rule in Writing Technical Papers and Reports.

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1 comment:

Daniel Schutzsmith said...

Good refresher. Thank you!