3 Steps to Writing an Effective Report Introduction

Published: 17th June 2010
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For many people, writing a report introduction can be a tough job. Overall, the best approach is to write the introduction after you complete the body of the report. But this still leaves you with the big problem of what the introduction should include and what it should leave out.



Your introduction needs to make an immediate impact. It needs to be relevant and attention-getting. Above all it needs to help your readers understand the big picture before they dive into the detail. Achieving this is never an easy task.



This article explains three simple steps you can take to achieve an introduction that will help inform and motivate your reader.



If you think about the word 'introduction' what associations does it have for you? Chances are you'll think of it as something vague and hard to define. After all, an introduction could include all manner of things, couldn't it? So what should you do to help make your introduction relevant and informative?



Step one is to sit back and think relentlessly about the needs of your reader. Typically as a starting point, writers will ask the question 'what do I need to tell the readers in this introduction?' Instead, you should turn that question on its head and ask, 'what do the readers really need to know?'



Thinking hard about the answer to this second question will help you move from being writer-centric to reader focused. For example, if your reader already knows the background to the commissioning of the report, you really don't need to re-state it. If you are writing any kind of weekly or monthly report, look again at the standard introduction. Is it a cut-and-paste of wording from an earlier report, or words that everybody already knows? If yes, cut them down, or better yet, cut them out completely.



Step two is to identify the most important point from your readers' perspective. Once you have done this consider if there is any special or exceptional information that will be vital to them. Anything legal or political? Any pressing deadlines that they wouldn't normally be expecting? Whatever you identify, make sure you spell it out clearly.



Just as critical is to identify what your readers need to know least. Are there points you are tempted to include which are only there for completeness or reference purposes? If yes, don't be afraid to leave them out of the introduction. Your readers will thank you in the long run.



Step three is to highlight any actions and decisions. What do they need to do once they have read the report? Clearly, this kind of information will be detailed in the body of the report, but summarizing it clearly and concisely in the introduction is still vitally important.



In summary, use the introduction to enable your reader to understand why your report is important; how to navigate through it, and what they need to do as a result of reading it. Remember the introduction is your one big opportunity to hook your readers in, grab their attention and actually make them want to read.





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Andrew Jackson co-founder of Pacific Blue Solutions, works with businesses and individuals to enhance their communication skills and the effectiveness of their learning. To find more information on writing a report introduction or to sign up for our popular report writing mini-course for free, visit http://www.pacificblue.co.uk/blog/bid/34247/Practical-tips-for-writing-a-report-introduction

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