A Report is a mode of formal document which serves to convey information on a specific topic to a targeted readership, in a clear and compartmentalised fashion, typically for business, scientific or otherwise “technical” purposes, but also variously for other disciplines and reasons. As a rule, a Report will have clear and precise objectives, with evidence adduced and information presented strictly in the service thereof. While Reports do not have one set format, they do follow specific guidelines of structure and formatting, usually established prior to composition, in the report brief (the instructions provided). Reports are consequently distinct from essays in their stylistic properties. Specifically, Reports are generally divided into headed and numbered sections and subsections for ease of reference. The intent is an enumerated adumbration (or summary) of key facts and insights, rather than the continuous prose one finds in essay writing. Hence Reports are more pragmatic in function, expressly communicative, than other sorts of scholarly writing; so to speak, more swiftly to the point. In consequence, Reports are further distinguished by a narrower scope of intent than is found in essays, generally being more streamlined and focused. The style of writing is direct and concise, tailored to swift and economical transmission of information; it is less discursive and exploratory than in essayistic texts. Certainly, Reports are not usually reflective or in any way personalised; rather, they convey information in a pragmatic fashion.
A high quality Report will be one which is lucidly written, logically ordered, and thus easily followed. Removing any obstacle to easy understanding is accordingly very important. For these reasons, Reports often include glossaries (of key terms), a table of contents, summaries of major points and recommendations, appendices and so on – items which aid comprehension. This is because Reports are often read only in part or very quickly and thus need to be readily navigable and easy to understand. In consequence, one needs to avoid florid or superfluous passages. Rather, pursue the goal of simple and effective communication. One should let practical necessity drive the writing. Be discriminate, excising unnecessary words and information. Always try to get to the point in the fewest, most precise words possible. Omit details not strictly to the matter. A Report needs to filter out peripheral information so as to get at the core of the issue. Consequently, a first-rate report is the result of thorough and efficient research. After all, one needs to understand a topic deeply before one can designate what parts of it are, for practical purposes, surplus to requirements. Also, it is important to be judicious with the order and fashion in which information is presented, for this will affect the way it is interpreted. This means prioritising the most important facets, ensuring they are clearly established before progressing to related concerns. The process is equivalent to laying a foundation before erecting walls and ceilings. In sum, a Report must fix together in a cogent and stable way, with a solid structure and clear logic.
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