Write in Style: A Guide to Good English

By Richard Palmer | Go to book overview
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14

REPORTS

As with Articles, most of what you need to consider when submitting a report is covered under Essays, but there are a few additional points to make, and others that need particular emphasis. The first of these has to do with attitude.

Writing an essay is a stressful business, especially early on in a student's career, and I've yet to meet anyone who has not at some time regarded the activity with fear and dislike. Yet a great many people come to enjoy it very much; as just noted, some become fortunate enough to derive pleasure and profit from something that once inspired only anxious hostility. But I've met few people who actively enjoy writing reports-even those who are good at it. Most approach the task as a matter of duty, of 'taking care of business'; they may be quietly satisfied with the result, but little or no sense of fun is present.

A cynic would argue that this makes crushingly obvious sense: reports are by definition boring, to writer and reader alike. And in our bureaucracy-infested times, it's not just cynics who believe that many reports are of dubious value if not downright unnecessary, and would be better left in their original rainforest form. Often, it is felt, reports are purely a matter of protocol: they are expected, traditional and must 'be seen to have been done', and even while we connive at such practice, we are all too aware of its underlying joyless futility.

As is I hope already evident, I am sympathetic to this point of view. I have to write and read many reports, and neither activity often fills me with energy or delight. But that is no help, either to you or to me:

The attitude and approach I've just outlined are very dangerous, almost a guarantee of indifferent performance.

If you need to write a report, the only safe attitude is to believe that it does matter and that you need to devote your best energies to it. The sad fact that a lot of reports are poorly written should never become an excuse for doing likewise: instead, let it increase your determination to do an admirable job.

The first thing to remember is that the chief purpose of any report

-194-

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