For all routine reporting, standard report forms should be used (for example, to report an accident). Such forms, based on previous experience, indicate all the facts likely to be needed by the employer and enable the writer to prepare, quickly, a report that presents these facts in an appropriate order (see Forms as concise communications, page 51). However, the content and layout of each report form should be reconsidered from time to time to ensure that it continues to serve its purpose and is up to date (requiring no additions, deletions or other changes).
For most other purposes a short report, written as a memorandum with any necessary supporting papers attached as appendices, should suffice (see Memoranda, page 40). Such a short report, like an essay, should have a beginning (answering the question ‘Why is the report needed?’), a middle (answering such questions as ‘How was the work done?’ and ‘What did you find?’ or ‘What happened?’ and ‘In what order?’) and an end (answering such questions as ‘What do you conclude?’, ‘What should be done?’ and ‘Who should do it?’). Also like an essay, a short report should not require a summary.
Employers should be impressed by concise reports providing just the information or advice they need, and should discourage unnecessarily long reports (see Figure 8.1). However, for some purposes longer reports are necessary and these are the subject of this chapter.
Before starting work on a report you must know why it is needed, and have clear instructions or terms of reference, stating exactly what the report is to be about and setting limits to its scope.
Analyse your audience. Identify your readers as clearly as possible so that you can cater for their needs, include a distribution list in your report, and compose a covering letter or memorandum to go with the report. And you must know when the report is required so that you can decide how much