Writing a report introduction can be a surprisingly tricky affair – deciding what to include and what to leave out inevitably means editing down your perfectly-formed report: a report that you would ideally like the reader to sit down and take the time to read carefully and thoroughly!
So here are some practical tips to get you on the right track and help focus your reader on the important stuff from the outset.
When you are writing a report introduction, make it directly relevant to your reader. For example, imagine there is a small change in regulations that affect your organisation. Often in this situation, a report will be circulated to everybody for information. A typical introduction to such a report might start like this:
“This report sets out the changes to the XYZ regulations (sections 3 and 5). The regulations come into effect on June 1st. A copy of the changes will be filed in our procedures manual.”
Unless your reader has plenty of time to spare, this might end up unread. Instead, you need to get their attention:
“We will be directly impacted by small but important changes to the XYZ regulations that come into effect on June 1st.”
Notice that the detail – that is, sections 3 and 5 – were omitted: keep focussed on the main message. You can then tell your reader what the report contains:
“Page 1 describes the changes in detail and includes a quick summary; Page 2 sets out the new end-of-day procedure that will be implemented to ensure that we remain compliant.”
Finally, a call to action rounds off the introduction nicely. Tell your reader what they now need to do:
“Please ensure that you are familiar with these changes and have them implemented by close of business on May 31st.”
Of course, life is not always this straightforward, and sometimes reports can be extremely, even excessively complicated. But the key point is always, surely, to clarify, to simplify and – above all – to make it as easy as possible for your reader to want to read on.