Technical writing, the words in and of themselves sound daunting when entering the world of reports. Data analysis is a far cry from the standard research paper. Though the stock elements of setting one up are similar enough that even a beginning writer can pick up the formatting and layout of one, the addition of facts and figures mathematically or statistically can compound the difficulty of producing a fine-tuned paper.
No two papers are the same, but some things you should consider when setting one up are the content (what is it you wish to share with your readers), the audience (who will be reading the report), and the processor path you choose to proceed with your writing. The process falls into the sort of paper you’ll be writing; for example, there’s the executive brief, the letter report, the summary report, the comprehensive report, internet journal or blog, journal report, and the white paper.
Each process offers its own audience and means of content development. Content can be provided by a company should you be hired for a report; or, in something less formal, like a blog, elected personally by the writer. The audience really depends on the type of report you’ll be writing. Again if it’s a blog or website, the audience may be fairly generalized and opened to a wide readership. Businesses and the like would lend an audience of executives and boardroom figures looking to make plans or decisions about the business.
Often times it can be best to know your audience first, as to ascertain interest among the readership, before digging into the content. For example, if you’re looking to appeal to a particular demographic, it would be good to look into reports falling within that readership to get an idea of what’s available, and what you as a writer will be able to add to the discourse already present. Once you’ve established those three elements, you can then move on to outlining.
The outline serves as a roadmap or guide to make filling in the rest of the report easier and less time-consuming. This serves as a flexible draft you can utilize to bullet out the main points of your report, anticipate the facts and figures necessary for the charts or graphs that’ll go into the work, and add any additional research or points that might come up as you begin diving into your rough draft. The outline is modifiable. “It streamlines your essay components so you spend less time worrying about the blank page before you and spend more time getting the paragraphs pieced together into a comprehensible piece of work,” says Brandon K. Rosario, writer at Last Minute Writing and Research paper suk.
Data collation targets the mathematics involved; as statistics and charts tend to fall into trends often need to be set up on a particular timeline. This is also where one would establish and create the visuals necessary for depicting the data’s relevance. It tends to be a lot easier to have the charts set up so you can plug them in as you go, as opposed to establishing the tables and numbers while filling out the report. Once you’ve established the Data going into the report, you can move on to the rough draft.
The rough draft is where you begin work on the literary aspects of the report. At this point in the process, you’ll want to establish your approach. How will you get your audience’s attention and how will you keep them following along. The standard, and perhaps most traditional, approach is writing what feels right according to the outline you blocked out. This is the simpler route to go as you can use the bullets provided in your outline as jumping points for the message, argument, or data you want to present.
Consider it as fill in the blanks method, where you flesh out and dig deeper into the information you arranged in the outline. Business might provide their own formats as writing in the working world tends to be more formal and established for individuals who may not have a lot of time to spend on your report. The draft serves as a less formal submission, permitting you to get your ideas out on paper for later revision and editing. Here, technicalities are less important and shouldn’t affect the flow your writing.
“Since you’ll probably be setting the paper aside for a bit and getting back to it later, you can roll out a steady stream of consciousness without much concern for punctuation or word choice. This provides a productive pace without interruption and grants you moments of accomplishment as the word count on the page grows beneath your flying fingers,” says Jared Smith, a business writer at Draft beyond and Writinity. Upon completion of the draft, allow yourself a break from writing. This will grant you a fresh set of eyes when you return to work. Which, in turn, makes spotting the technical errors that much easier.
Editing and Fine Tuning
When you return to the piece, give it a full read through before picking it apart. This will allow you a chance to get a feel for the flow of the report and make apparent the edits necessary without interruption. For example, there might be information missing in a subheading that you wouldn’t catch if you started working on structure within the first few paragraphs. When reviewing the piece, keep an eye on the language. Does it ring with clarity the audience can appreciate, is it concise enough to keep the reader from being confused? Are the graphs and charts applied in the appropriate places, does their information that follows their images clearly convey your use of the statistics? These are a few questions you should have in mind when giving the draft it’s first reading. Once you’ve given the draft an initial read through, you can then go back and fine tune the paragraphs and information as needed. Below are a few resources that can assist in the editing process:
- Grammar Guide / EF – Provide grammar resources which can assist in sentence structure and flow of the report.
- Proofreading tools / Grammarly – Online proofreading tools provide professional proofreading by submitting the report to a beta audience. A useful feature for those in a pinch or, as noted above, in need of a second set of eyes before final submission.
The final draft is the paper spiffed up to perfection before submission. Below are a few tools you can use to get a second set of eyes. Analysis reports often have to go through an approval process before being released; so, it helps to have a second opinion before sending them off.
To conclude, though technical writing might taunt you into thinking its a mass of mathematical equations smattered with the occasional paragraph, the process can be condensed and streamlined into a smoother less intimidating pieces of work once you learn and understand the processes going into one. Also, as with most writing, the more you do the better you get. And, as you progress, the easier and faster it becomes upping your productivity as a writer.