Report writing tips. According to the Plain English campaign, Plain English is ‘A message, written with the reader in mind and with the right tone of voice, that is clear and concise’.
The Plain English campaign has loads of great resources on their website including some free downloadable guides on such things as Report writing, grammar and punctuation.
In reality, it’s a toolkit of writing techniques, used by journalists and professional writers when they want to get and keep people’s attention and spur them to action. Incorporating these techniques into your own writing can do the same for you.
One of the key techniques is simply to write in shorter sentences. Research shows that sentences of around 15-20 words are easier to take in and understand than longer ones. Such as this one taken from a college website:
‘We seek to establish a like-minded supply chain to support the future delivery of successful contracts, partnerships and projects that can complement the College’s existing provision and offer high quality project delivery and contract performance in line with College standards.’
What they’re essentially saying is:
We’d like to work on joint projects with other partners who share our values and high standards.
Which version is easier to understand and remember? Keep it short and sweet and imagine you are talking to the reader. Read it out loud, if it sounds formal and complicated, think about what you’re actually trying to say and simplify it. Work on writing shorter sentences and see the results for yourself.
How many words?
Note: You can set Microsoft Word to show Readability statistics and give you useful information such as words per sentence. Each version of Word does it slightly differently; in versions pre Office 2016 you usually go to the File menu, then Options, then Proofing and put a cross in the box Show readability statistics. The stats appear after you run a spell check.