Q&A with Sue Calthorpe on Producing Effective Reports

Sue Calthorpe | Media & Communications Specialist
Susan Calthorpe Ahead of our upcoming Producing Effective Reports course, we spoke to communications specialist Sue Calthorpe. She trains a number of high-profile private and public sector organisations and has enhanced their communications skills through writing reports and official documents.

Q1. What is the most common problem people have with report writing?

Many people are finding that they are having to write reports for the first time as part of jobs they love: from medical staff to aircraft engineers, from Antarctic scientists to data analysts. The most common issue is lack of confidence. Most people are better than they think they are: they just need some easy tools to help with structure and style.

Q2. What’s the worst that can happen with a badly written report?

It isn’t read, and someone makes a terrible decision on behalf of the company because they didn’t use the right information.

Q3. Why is Effective Report Writing important for your organisation?

Nowadays it’s not enough to do your job properly – you have to provide evidence so people trust you. Short reports are a great way to get information across to a range of people quickly and easily. You have to do the thinking they don’t have time for and present it in a coherent, consistent format.

Q4. What are your Top 5 tips on Report Writing?

1. Know what your report is for: you have to define its purpose to you know what to include. Otherwise your writing will be all over the place.

2. Plan what you’re going to say to avoid long sentences which happen when you write while you’re still

3. Think about your reader: what do they want to know and what do they need to know?

4. Find out where and when your report will be read. You’ll need a different structure if it’s paper-based or presented on a tablet or electronic device.

5. Create a hierarchy of information. Don’t force skim readers to plough through detail to get to the point.

Q5. How can this course help improve your report writing?

It’s a combination of practical tips and worked real-life examples, specific to a range of organisations in the room – so the content is always up to date. When participants book, we update the course materials to include examples they’ll recognise. The best outcome is the people who’ve attended who improve their skills. I’m still in touch with dozens of previous participants who keep in touch to let me know how their report writing’s going: they keep in touch with each other too – you always notice a flurry of activity on LinkedIn as they find new contacts on the day.

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