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Style and Usage in Report Writing

Updated on January 20, 2013
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

Consistency is Important

When writing a report, and again when checking over a report that has already been written, it is important to maintain consistency. This applies to both style and usage. The style of writing, that is, the way in which it is written, and the usage, the way in which the words are being used, are both important in the presentation of a report.

There are three areas in particular where consistency is important: grammar, headings and sequence.

1. Grammatical Consistency: It is important to maintain consistency in the grammatical form used, in the tense and in number.

  • Grammatical Form: This refers to the structure of the sentences, the way in which the words are used and how the rules of grammar are followed. When these are adhered to, the report 'flows' and is easier to read.
  • The Tense: This concerns the verbs used. The verb in a sentence needs to agree in its relationship between the form of the verb and the time of the action or state that it describes. Reports are usually written in the past tense and consistency should be maintained throughout the report. Note the conditional clause also uses the past tense, e.g. "If further research were continued on this topic, the results would be interesting."
  • The Number: Nouns, verbs and adjectives need to agree according to whether the number is singular or plural. If the noun is plural, the verb needs to agree: "Fifty subjects were selected." This is also important with the demonstrative. e.g. the demonstrative, this is used with the singular count noun experiment; in the plural they become these experiments.

2. Consistency in Headings: Headings of sections and categories in a report should be kept consistent with each other in style and in numeration.

3. Consistency in Sequencing: The way in which chapters, headings, points, questions and lists are presented should be sequences in a logical manner. Often there is a range of possibilities depending on the topic and situation so it is important to arrange the report in a logical sequence.

Grammars - Ancient and Modern
Grammars - Ancient and Modern | Source

Style in Presentation

Each statement or question in a paragraph should be composed of complete sentences, as should be introductory and summary statements. This will assist in ensuring that the presentation of the report is complete and intelligible for the reader.

Some Extra Points:

  • Try to avoid beginning a sentence with 'it'.
  • Only use initials or an acronym after it has been uses in full. Follow this first use immediately by providing the initials or acronym in brackets.
  • Abbreviations such as Dr., St., Mt., may be used preceding or following proper names in titles, headings, footnotes, bibliographies, tables, figures and in the body of the report.

Spelling and Word Count

Spelling and word count can be checked as the report progresses or when it is completed.

Spelling: The report should be edited and checked for correct spelling, consistent with the standards of the particular country of presentation, or, if it's an international paper, according to the standards of the home country or the country where it is to be assessed. A spell checker is easily available; use it.

Word Count: A word counter tool is easily accessed and can be downloaded free on the internet.

Good Dictionaries and a Thesaurus are Essential
Good Dictionaries and a Thesaurus are Essential | Source

Punctuation Usage

Correct punctuation is important. It divides one sentence from another or one part of a sentence from another part. Incorrect use of punctuation can cause confusion and misunderstanding. If the writer is unsure of how to use punctuation it is advisable to learn to do so by using a good reference.

It is helpful to note that in American usage when providing a quotation the punctuation mark at the end, such as the full-stop (period) or comma, is almost always placed before the final quotation marks.

Usage of Roman and Arabic Numerals

The main thing to remember in the use of Roman and Arabic numerals is again - consistency. Decide which type of numerals will be used for main points and whether to use only the one style of numeral (e.g. 1.1) or whether to utilise a different style of numeral or even letters for subordinate points.

Whatever style is chosen, the numerals should follow a logical pattern that in order to contribute to the understanding and logical succession of information in the report.

Books for Learning About Grammar Usage
Books for Learning About Grammar Usage | Source

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    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Marie Flint: Thank you! Your comments are very encouraging. Sorry I did not see them before.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      More hubbers need to read, study, and implement the lessons in this hub. Thank you!

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Lipnancy: Sorry I missed replying to your kind remarks, but thank you very much for them.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Any student will make use of this information. I wish I had your series when I was in school.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      JohnMello: Thank you. Have a lovely weekend.

    • JohnMello profile image

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Voted up and useful :)

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Eiddwen: Thank you for your lovely, positive comments. A great day to you, too, my friend.

      shiningirisheyes: How lovel! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Have a great day.

      Frank Atanacio: I'm so glad that it is useful.

      europewalker: Thank you for reading and finding it informative.

      Pennypines: That's great. I hope it was well received. Your reminder about avoiding 'slanguage' is very helpful, too.

      Writer Chuck: I'm glad it is helpful. Such things can be useful to share.

      Harvest Moon: Thank you for your comment and vote.

      Genna East: Yes, the editing afterwards is so important as we all make mistakes.

      jo miller: Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      teaches12345: Thank you. Sorry I've taken so long to reply, I've been away for a week and just returned.

      AudreyHowitt: Thank you for your lovely comments - and for sharing.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      This is so very useful Blossom (and so well-written)! Sharing!!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Blossom, you have given us more education tonight. I love the learning and the way you make it so interesting. Thank you!

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 4 years ago from Tennessee

      Wonderful instructional hub. I like to see hubs to remind us of these rules.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Very good synopsis, Blossom. The hardest lesson for me to learn in writing is to come back for a “cold read” later…regardless if you think you have covered all of your points, well, and without mistakes. Excellent hub. :-)

    • Harvest Moon profile image

      Harvest Moon 4 years ago from Earth

      Indispensable to those hoping to brush up on their writing skills! Voted up and useful.

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      Writer Chuck 4 years ago

      Great hub Blossom. very instructional. thank you so much for sharing.

    • Pennypines profile image

      Lucille Apcar 4 years ago from Mariposa, California, U.S.A.

      An excellent summary of basic principles not limited to report writing but writing in general. May I add one item: unless in dialogue, avoid "slanguage", i.e.: you guys, or those guys. Thank you Blossom, I plan to read it at our next writing class.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 4 years ago

      Interesting article with very useful information. Voted up and useful.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      Again blossom thank you so much for these types of hubs.. useful and well written..:)

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Blossom - Well-structured, well-researched and thoroughly explained. Wonderful article.

      You have a gift for teaching.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      So interesting;well informed and useful.

      A great hub Blossom and I vote up,across and share all around.Have a wonderful day.

      Eddy.