Book review

What makes a good report: 10 steps for writers and managers to produce convincing reports efficiently

Adrian & Robyn Colman, What makes a good report: 10 steps for writers and managers to produce convincing reports efficiently
Word Wise
ISBN 0 646 43582 5
48 pp. RRP: $14.95

Ah, a title that says it all.

Catchword, Issue 99, Spring 2004
Reviewed by Bruce Ransley

This book is aimed at people who have to write reports and, just as importantly, people who manage report-writing projects. Indeed the first section is pitched at the latter, and emphasises the importance of allocating time and space, resources and an appropriate budget to those involved with the project. To quote: ‘One of the single most useful things a manager can do is to give a report-writer adequate and uninterrupted time away from other tasks’.

10 steps offers a useful planning guide, with checklists, time saving tips, hints on software and version control, et cetera. There is advice on writing techniques and style – active versus passive voice, sentence and paragraph structure, consistency and economy of word use (with examples). The authors have taken their own advice and structured the book so that it meets the reader's needs. And, for those who can't quite remember what old Mrs Dixon said about abstract nouns in Grade Seven, there are some useful hints on the trickier parts of grammar. The section on tables and graphics has nailed the common problems that arise in documents: formatting, graphic resolution and layout. Tips on basic structure, copy-editing and proofreading help to smooth out the production process.

As the authors are quick to point out, the best thing about this book is that it's very short. At 48 pages (including the index), it makes a bus timetable look like War and Peace. Therein lies its strength it's a book for busy people and it's likely to be used.

Uh oh. Is this book going to do for professional editors what Henry Ford did for Cobb and Co? No. Far from making professional editors redundant, authors and managers are encouraged to seek professional services (allocating time and money to the pros), and the resulting work will (hopefully) be better written and formatted – and therefore easier to work with – than would otherwise be the case.

I'm wondering if 10 steps was inspired by the AA 12-step program, and might have begun with the affirmation: ‘I accept that I'm powerless to complete this report and I surrender to a higher power’.

Contact the Society: e-mail: info@tas-editors.org.au
Post: Society of Editors (Tasmania), PO Box 4512, Bathurst Street PO, HOBART TAS 7000

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