This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Finally, a word about the choice of paper, covers, binding and possible
indexing for your report. Appearance really does matter. So does
dura bility. It is obvious that glossy, professional-looking reports will
project the sort of image that most companies wish to foster with
existing and potential customers and/or shareholders. Perhaps what
is less obvious is that sometimes it is desirable to produce low-budget
reports for more than just reasons of economy. For example, it is rarely
Fig. 17. Contrasting backgrounds and type.
IMPROVING THE PRESENTATION OF YOUR REPORT / 129
necessary to produce an ornate product if it is for internal consumption
only. Even if your department does have money to burn, it is not a good
idea to advertise the fact.
As you think about the physical construction and appearance of a
report, bear these points in mind:
Your purpose (the action you intend the report to generate).
The readership (number and nature).
The expected life of the report (including the number of likely
ref erences to be made to it).
What materials and facilities are available within your
The cost of these various options (and your budget).
There are three aspects to consider when choosing paper, namely its:
Most reports are written on A4 size paper (210 x 297 mm). However,
there are other possibilities (see page 96). The quality of paper you
choose will depend on all the factors listed above. For example, do
not use poor quality paper if the report is likely to be referred to
The importance of conciseness has been stressed throughout this book.
However, this does not mean use as little paper as possible. It is also
important not to present the reader with huge blocks of uninterrupt ed
130 / WRITING A REPORT
type. If you are really concerned about the future of the Scandinavian
and Amazonian forests, the amount of paper saved at the planning
stage will more than compensate for an extra few sheets in the report
itself. You could also think about using recycled paper.
It is customary for reports to be written on white paper. However, as
we have seen, sometimes it is useful to use different colour paper in
different sections of the report. If you do this be sure that:
The colours are easily distinguishable.
Dark colours are avoided.
The different sections are logical and rational.
Alternatively, you could use white paper throughout and coloured
parti tions between the sections.
Every report should have covers, if only an extra sheet of paper at the
back and front to serve as a dust jacket. However, most reports will be
enclosed by glossy boards (cards). Other covers will be made of plastic
or even imitation leather, perhaps with a pocket so that other related
doc uments can be kept with the report. Customised covers on a report
can set it apart.
Covers protect reports which are likely to be read by many people or
saved for a long period of time. A report is twice as likely to be read
and three times as likely to be saved if it has attractive (though not
necessar ily expensive) covers.
Many reports will have no more than a title on their covers. Others will
include the organisation’s name and logo and/or a space for a refer ence
number, the date of issue and the name of the department respon sible
for the production of the report. Sometimes a ‘window’ will have been
IMPROVING THE PRESENTATION OF YOUR REPORT / 131
cut out of the front cover. This allows the reader to see the title as it
appears on the title page.
Think carefully about the colour of your covers. Dark ones are often
very depressing while very light ones or ones using a combination of
bright colours may give an unwanted impression of light-heartedness.
‘Safe’ colours for reports are either blue or green.
There are several inexpensive binding systems available. Your choice
will depend largely upon:
The size of the report.
Whether amendments will be necessary.
Whether inserts will be necessary.
The distribution requirements.
The quality requirements.
The binding methods used for other related reports.
What system or systems are available within your organisation.
Here are some common methods of binding:
132 / WRITING A REPORT
Tags come in various sizes identified by their colour. Punch a hole in the
top left of the report. Make sure it is at least an inch into the paper both
from the top and the left, otherwise sheets will soon become detached.
For larger reports, also punch a hole at the bottom left, or use a four-
hole punch. This method of binding is suitable where amendments will
be likely and/or where inserts such as maps and plans are expected. Do
not use tags to bind reports which are larger than 100 sheets.
Here you simply staple the covers and pages at the top left corner. For
reports of 10 to 20 pages, it is best to staple them from the front and the
back. Then place the report in a plastic wallet. A more sophisticated
method is to staple down the left hand side and cover them with
adhesive binding strip. Be sure to leave wide margins, and double staple
at the top and bottom of the report. Never use paper clips. Pins are
slightly better, but for reasons of safety they are not recommended.
This method is an improvement on the use of staples down the left side
of the report, but the principle is the same. Use a plastic slide-grip along
the left hand edge of the assembled covers and sheets. Once again,
remember to leave wide margins if you intend to use this system.
The edges of the sheets are glued and fixed into the spine of a fabric,
card or plastic cover. This method is suitable only for reports of about
25 pages or more and it should be attempted only by the most dexterous
of report writers. A more sophisticated method is known as hot metal
Here the report is made up of sheets folded in the middle to make
two single-sided or four double-sided pages. They are then bound by
IMPROVING THE PRESENTATION OF YOUR REPORT / 133
a method known as saddle stitching. This system is not suitable for
larger reports because the pages tend to become distorted. It is possible
to have reports stitched and cased commercially in hardback form.
However, this would be a far more expensive exercise.
This gives a report a professional appearance and it is suitable for
works of up to around 20 sheets. You will need to have access to a
special machine which perforates the binding edge and then threads the
binding (plastic or wire) through the holes in the covers and the report.
The pages of the report will then lie flat when opened. Plastic binding
is pre ferred because sheets can be added or removed, as required. This
is not possible with wire binding. Any organisation which produces
reports regularly and/or in quantity should seriously consider acquiring
a ring binding machine.
The report will have a contents page and it may have an index. It is
pos sible to improve the presentation further by making it even easier
for readers to find their way around the report. This can be done in a
num ber of ways, as illustrated in Figure 18.
The thumb-index pages method is quite complex and it needs to be
undertaken professionally. Therefore it is only appropriate where there
will be a wide external circulation. On the other hand, the overlapping
pages method is very simple: each section is identified by pages of
unique width. It is most suitable for short reports. Side indexing is
another straightforward method. It is achieved simply by attaching
protruding self-adhesive labels to the first page of each section of the
report. Each of these methods can be complemented by the use of
different colour pages to identify the various sections of the report.
134 / WRITING A REPORT
Fig. 18. Indexing a report.
Appearance matters. The way you present your text and artwork, and
your choice of paper, covers, binding and possibly indexing, will be
strongly influenced by your purpose, your readership, the expected life
of the report, the options available to you within your organisation, and
their relative cost.
Word processing and desktop publishing
Modern word processing and desktop publishing packages present
opportunities to the report writer that were unthinkable a decade ago.
However, do not get carried away with the possibilities. Remember
IMPROVING THE PRESENTATION OF YOUR REPORT / 135
that your purpose is to communicate simplyandeffectivelywith your
Layout and design
Presentation can be greatly assisted if sufficient thought is given to the
page size and orientation
margins and spacing
headings and subheadings
This is the art and style of printing. A very wide range of typefaces
and fonts is available. Be selective, and choose ones that will help you
develop the right departmental or corporate image and identity for
Well produced and appropriateillustrations really enhance a report.
They make information readily understandable, easily digestible
and memorable. It is easier to assimilate information presented
However, illustrations should only be used if they are easier to
understand than the words or figures they represent. They should
neverbe included for their own sake. Ask yourself: are they relevant
to the text?
136 / WRITING A REPORT
Before you decide the kind of illustration you will use, ask yourself
what is its purpose: is it intended to give an overall impression of
something, to show some detailed findings, or to show the structure
and working of a system? Then choose the most appropriate
illustration to achieve this end.
If a reader will needto see the illustration in order to understand the
text, place it as close to the point of reference as possible. However,
if it is merely supplementaryto the text, it is often preferable to
place it in an appendix.
Reports printed only in black, and always against a white background,
are rapidly becoming as old fashioned as black and white television sets.
Today’s technology can make full colour printing a reality.
Paper, covers, binding and indexing
Finally, consider the overall appearance and required durability of your
Think about the size, quality and colour of paper you will require.
Remember that your report should have covers and that customised
ones would set it apart.
Consider which binding system you will use.
Ask yourself whether the report should be indexed and, if so, which
would be the best method to employ.
Types of Report
Agendas for committee meetings
Comparative testing reports
Duty notes reports
138 / WRITING A REPORT
Investigation into financial affairs of a company reports
Process description reports
Student project reports
Systems evaluation reports
This section considers some of the most common types of report which
you may be required to produce. They cover different subjects, and
they have different purposes and readerships. For this reason they have
dif ferent structures; they are made up of a variety of combinations of
report components (introductions, summaries, and so on), and these
compo nents are often given different names in different types of report.
Every report should have a title page.
In Chapter 1 we discussed report components in some detail. The
comments here are intended to complement that discussion by pointing
out the particular emphases associated with each report type. We shall
do this by answering two questions:
1. What points should I bear in mind?
2. What would be a suitable format?
SOME COMMON TYPES OF REPORT / 139
Use this information and advice to help you decide the most appropriate
style, format and contents for your report. However, use them flexibly;
you must also bear in mind:
The requirements of the person who commissioned the report.
Custom and conventions.
As you plan and later draft your report, remember that while every
report should be different, every report also should have some
similari ties. It must present relevant facts accurately and in a way that
is both acceptable and intelligible to its readers. In other words, it must
have a beginning, a middle and an end. Only then can you expect to
achieve these three essential aims:
to be read without unnecessary delay
to be understood without undue effort
and to be accepted.
So always think about the needs of your readers. They are the impor tant
people, and they have a right to expect you to make things as easy for
them as possible. If you do not help them, why should they help you?
Refer also to Appendix 1 to see how the style, layout and content of a
report should reflect its overall purpose and readership.
140 / WRITING A REPORT
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?