Do you freeze when sitting down to write long reports? While most of us can write short emails, status reports, and project plans, writing long business documents can be more difficult. How do you start?
Here’s a four step approach for writing long documents. It makes it easy for you as the writer and more interesting for the reader. So, how does it work?
4 Ways to Make Business Reports More Interesting
We were in London recently and went to St Paul’s cathedral. I usually tend to avoid tour guides as I’m a guy – we like to be independent. My wife had other ideas so we went along. And it was a great idea!
The tour guide took us around the cathedral sharing wonderful stories as he went. Things which looked ‘nice’ suddenly came to life as he put them into context and shared a few anecdotes with us.
As someone who finds is hard to stop thinking about their business, I thought, ‘how can I apply this to my own work?’
Tell the reader where you’re going to take them. Placing things in context helps them understand what’s coming next and gives them an overview. No one likes surprises.
Think of it as sharing a map with your readers. ‘Here’s the path we’re going to take. And this is what we’ll see.‘
Next, hold your reader’s hand and walk with them.
What this means is that you don’t deviate from the message or, if you have to, you circle back rapidly and return to the main theme.
Your objective is to keep them heading in the right direction. Structure your headings, sub-headings and paragraphs so they all move in the same direction.
Support what you’re writing about with charts, diagrams, illustrations and other materials that help the narrative clip along at a nice pace.
These counter-balance the text and make the document easier on the eye. Depending on your document, you can also share quotes, facts, statistics, and examples.
Arrive On Schedule
Let the readers know when you’ve finished. In other words, summarize what’s gone before, highlight the salient points and direct them to other information, for example the appendix.
Why does this work?
This analogy of taking a tour helps you as a writer plan the journey for the reader.
Instead of writing chapter after chapter (with little continuity), it helps you weave the document together, focussing the main themes, and creating a stronger bond with the reader.
One final thing.
Talk to the reader as though they were sitting next to you. Not in an over-friendly manner but courteous, polite and helpful. If you do this, it will totally change the way you write documents and, more importantly, how others respond to them.
What else would you add?