The ins and outs of technical report writing

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Technical report writing is a skill that many well-meaning engineers are failing to master. What does it take to write a comprehensive report? Communications specialist and Alusani® Course Leader explains.

There are some common blunders made by both novice and experienced engineers, says the Alusani® Course Leader

She points out that young engineers have a tendency to use templates that are incorrect. This is either due to an unwillingness to ask for help or what optimists would describe as misguided resourcefulness.

On the other hand older engineers have a propensity to create long, drawn out reports. According to Terblanche this practice was developed in a time when “verbosity was valued”.

Today readers prefer concise, easy to read texts. She stresses the need to create reports that can be easily understood and won’t bore the reader with complex explanations and concepts. “Keep it simple and very interesting.”

This doesn’t mean that reports should not contain genuine substance. In fact she asserts that quantitative data, in other words facts and figures, constitute the most import part of the document.
How this information is presented however makes all the difference to the person consuming it at the other end.

“Know your reader”, advises the Alusani® Course Leader. It is the reader after all who must interpret the information and act upon it. Bear in mind that not everyone reading the document will have an engineering background. While some elements of the report are expected to be technical you should, “ a good report is one a lay person can read with relative ease.”

This means that readers should be able to understand the information without having to ask questions.

It is especially important that PR and marketing departments have a clear understanding of the report. “You want everyone to communicate the right information at the right time.”

Writing clear and concise reports does not come naturally it takes practice and is a skill that must be learned and refined over time.

There are also techniques and tips that can help inexperienced writers. For example she says, “A good report starts with a good outline”. The preparation for the report is just as important as the writing and compiling aspect.

“Mind-mapping” is a skill that is not only useful for report writing but is helpful in everyday life.

For more insights join the Technical Report Writing course held by Alusani Skills & Training Network®. For more information call 011 447 7470 email faith@alusani.co.za or visit Alusani Skills and Training Network®

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