I write blog posts on a regular basis, so it might be kind of obvious that I enjoy writing. If ever you wondered, wonder no more. I like to write.
Per writing 101, to be an effective writer, you must know your audience.
If you are preparing a final product for your client, Mr. Client is your audience.
Simple so far.
Rule #2. Don't try to impress by using loads of fancy words. Just write to drive home your point. Include all of the facts and that’s it.
#3 - Don’t embarrass yourself. Use spell check and correct grammar. Proofread your final draft. Enlist someone else to proofread it for you when possible.
This one might be a little more difficult for some to master, but #4 calls for using an “active” voice, as opposed to a passive one. An active voice uses shorter sentences that simply drive home the point. If this doesn’t come naturally for you, don’t worry. Practice makes perfect.
Let me give you an example:
The girl was bitten by the dog. (passive) The dog bit the girl. (active)
Finally, #5 is a lesser-known writing tip that really gives your writing a polished and organized feel. It’s called parallel construction.
Don’t freak out. It’s just a fancy term that means using consistent grammatical form throughout a narrative.
Again, let me give you an example:
The subject appeared to be honest, reliable, and have sincerity. (incorrect)
The subject appeared to be honest, reliable, and sincere. (correct)
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to formatting your super awesome, impressive report.
Here’s a big secret. Are you ready for it?
Format your report.
I’ve seen reports that are all over the place. No formatting, just one, big, long, boring narrative with no section headers, no page numbers, and no direction for the reader. These kinds of reports are difficult to read, hard to follow, disorganized, and chaotic.
To give your report a polished look and make it easily digestible for the reader, separate it into chunks with headings. Use page numbers.
Consider including these types of sections for an investigative report: title page, table of contents, case information, case objective, summary, identification of subject(s), investigative methods, conclusion, and appendices.
Extra Tips to Transition Your Report from Good to Great
Now that you’ve got the basics and formatting down, it’s time to break out the big guns.
Use the following tips to really showcase your report:
- Put your company logo on the first page
- Give your report an air of professionalism by placing “privileged and confidential” on the title page
- After the report is written, read it from the viewpoint of an outsider and ask yourself if the content makes sense. Did you leave out any important facts? Do you need to clarify some of your points? Did you use PI jargon that your client won’t understand?
- Read your report and ask yourself if the information flows well. If it doesn’t, change the formatting around a bit until it does.
- Within headings, break information into short paragraphs. This keeps the reader’s attention and doesn’t overwhelm with too much information at once.
We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. If writing is a weakness for you, don’t let that deter you from writing killer reports. Once you get a solid template in place and practice the tips I’ve outlined, it will get easier for you and eventually become second nature.