Report writing: reasons to do it well
Tim North, http://www.scribe.com.au
You probably don't have a burning desire to write reports.
Nonetheless, you've ended up having to write them. There's a natural tendency to want to get the darn things written and off your desk as soon as possible. There are all sorts of reasons for this:
* Writing can be a pain in the behind.
* You didn't take this job to become a writer.
* You've got a dozen other "real jobs" that need doing.
* You're just having one of those days (or weeks or months).
* It's Friday afternoon.
We can all identify with these feelings. Still, to use a cliche, if something's worth doing, it's worth doing *well*.
Now that's not just hollow sentiment. There are good reasons for taking your writing responsibilities seriously. Here are a few of them:
Over time, what you write -- and the way you write it -- will be remembered, for better or worse. If you succumb to the "just get it done" or the "near enough is good enough" schools of thought then, over time, the people you write for will start to judge you accordingly.
Conversely, if you go the extra yards and do a good job on your reports, letters and memos, that too will be remembered; and it will influence your reputation accordingly.
Remember: you are what you write.
The reputation that we just discussed has a flow-on effect: it influences your credibility. Consider two staff members:
* Person A doesn't like writing. She has a reputation for writing reports that have to be sent back or fixed. They don't always answer all of the things they were supposed to; facts sometimes contain errors; material is inappropriately cut and pasted from earlier reports without change; the layout isn't in the approved style etc.
* Person B also doesn't like writing. Still, she has a reputation for writing reports that don't need to be sent back or fixed; they answer all of the things they were supposed to; the facts presented are well checked; her reports are well written and well presented etc.
An incident occurs, and each person provides a different written version of events. Which account will have the greater credibility?
Regardless as to who is *right* in this particular case, it's human nature that a person with a reputation for well written, accurate reporting will have his or her written statement awarded a greater level of credibility.
This credibility may not just be extended to his or her written work. People may come to judge your character and work ethic on the basis of a history of well-written submissions.
When you write reports (or letters or memos), you're often doing so in response to a specific request. It may often seem that the people who make these requests are completely unaware of how much work it takes for you to write the reports or how inconvenient they can be.
This won't always be the case though. At least some (perhaps most) of the people who ask for such reports do understand that you'll have to work on them. And some (hopefully most) will appreciate the effort you put in to submitting a good report.
One day, you might want something from them.
If you have a history of submitting well written reports that are right the first time, a good manager will recognise this effort. When you next need a favour, hopefully your efforts will be remembered and your request treated in a favourable light.
Bottom line: Time spent writing well is not wasted. You get the benefits described here, and your employer gets better reports. It's a win-win situation.