What does style have to do with report writing? Everything.
One of the outcomes of my International Audit Report Writing workshop is a style guide for audit report writing. Don’t write audit reports? No problem. If your team issues reports regularly, you can still benefit from the concept.
What is a report writing style guide?
It’s an internal document that provides guidance to your team on tone, content requirements, structure, and language choice. It codifies expectations on what and how each member of the team should write. It results from analysis of issued reports, extensive discussions with management, learning from report writing training, and a shared vision of how reports should look and feel when finalized.
What are the benefits of a report writing style guide?
- It ensures consistency. Despite a team being in place for years, significant report writing inconsistencies can exist. During my report writing workshops, I highlight inconsistencies and weaknesses to management and the team. These gaps can be eliminated through intentional use of a style guide after training has occurred when combined with constructive feedback and coaching.
- It increases report writing quality. Because your report represents your professionalism and the quality of your work, it can enhance – or detract – from your reputation and your entire team’s reputation. Higher quality reports from the team result in an increase in real and perceived value of your work to the organization.
- It serves as a central information source. Every team member has access to the same guidance, any time, from a shared directory. This eases the burden of training new team members, and provides a valuable resource ‘on the job’.
- It functions as a baseline for the global team. In today’s dynamic business environment, getting international team members to adopt the team’s global standards can be a challenge. This results from having team hubs on multiple continents and is especially critical when English language skills vary at each location. A style guide will that international team members have the resources they need to meet report writing expectations.
- It captures decisions as they are made. A report writing style guide is a living document. Over time, management may update the report template, redefine content requirements or revise standard report language. A style guide can be easily updated for these kinds of changes by the internal document owner and immediately shared with the entire team.
What’s the downside of investing in a style guide?
One can argue it muzzles the author or prevents the author from writing in their own voice. After reviewing hundreds of audit reports, I can assure you that this is not the case.
Individual writing styles and approaches still come through. The style guide simply clarifies any mandatory aspects while providing clear direction regarding tone, content and language. This creates the margins, and the author is free to fill in the facts, figures, conclusions and recommendations in context.
None of my clients has ever regretted putting a report writing style guide in place for their global team. The benefits far outweigh the investment in terms of productivity and quality of work product.
If your team is ready for a report writing style guide, contact me today. I’m happy to share how you can get started on your path to more effective report writing.
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