Style Tips for Writing Reports

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					Style Tips for Writing Reports
              Presented by
        Editorial Help Desk
        Office of Global Access Technology
        Montgomery County Public Schools
                 INTRODUCTION
•   Editing is a process whereby           •   Also, the “little things” like
    information created, and probably          sentence structure, spelling,
    revised, by one or more writers is         capitalization, and punctuation
    reviewed and evaluated before it is        must be checked to make sure they
    published.
                                               conform to standards for
                                               American English, so the audience
•   Writers may have a hard time               can understand the information.
    recognizing inconsistencies in
    their work, because they are so
    involved in it or close to it.         •   And, most important, an editor
                                               must ensure that there is
•   The editor’s job is to make sure           consistency throughout the
    that the information is accurate, so       document/publication.
    as not to mislead the audience; and
    the document must be organized
    so that the information is both
    easy to find and logical.
           Before you write…
• Know your audience. Put yourself in
  their place. Write so they will
  understand.
• • Use your dictionary (preferably
  Webster’s) whenever you’re not sure
  whether a word is correct, or whether it
  should be capitalized, hyphenated, or not
  used at all in a particular context.
• • Be consistent in your use of a style
  throughout the article. For example, if
  you use cancelled in a sentence, do not
  use canceled further on in the article.
• • Watch out for the random use of
  different terms that mean the same thing.
• • Run spellcheck
Ten Tips for Producing
   a Sound Report
   1. MAKE LIST FORMATS
        CONSISTENT
If you introduce a specific number of items in
a list, itemize them with numbers, not bullets.
     Example:
     The participants identified three reasons for the
     breakdown in communication:
     1. The lack of English reading skills.
     2.    Lack of training in cultural diversity.
     3. General disinterest in the issues.
       Bulleted and Numbered Lists
The following guidelines relate to both bulleted and numbered lists in all MCPS documents:



Ideally, bulleted lists should have a minimum of two items, each displayed on a
separate line. There is no firm rule about the maximum number of items in a
list. Tip: Readers can lose track in a long list.

Indent bullets five spaces from the margin.

In a bulleted list, introduced by a full sentence, where the bullets are verb
phrases or incomplete sentences, if any of the bulleted phrases contains a
punctuation mark (comma, semicolon, colon) then all the listed items should
end with a period.

Example of bulleted list beginning with verb phrases:
The main responsibilities of the foreign office are as follows:
       Assisting with legal problems.
       Assisting with financial, medical, and cultural problems.
       Assisting with search and rescue operations.
   Bulleted and numbered lists (cont.)

When a bulleted list is introduced with a complete sentence,
the text in each bulleted item must be grammatically parallel to
the other bulleted items in the list. If one item is a complete
sentence, they all should be a complete sentence. If one item is
written in the second person, the others should match.
   Use an initial capital on the first word in each bulleted
  item.
    End each bulleted item with a period, a comma, or no
 punctuation.
    If one item in the bulleted list is a complete sentence (and
 therefore must end with a period) all the other items
must end with a period to make the list consistent.
         Bulleted and numbered lists (cont.)

When a list is introduced by an incomplete sentence, each bulleted
item should end with a comma, and the final item should end with a
period. Also, the bullet (sentence fragment) does not begin with an
initial capital letter.

Example of bulleted list beginning with an incomplete sentence.
If you want to work with young children, you should—
    develop a sense of humor,
    be prepared for the unexpected, and
    expect to be rewarded by their giggles and smiles.

Eliminate line spacing between bulleted items.
2. MAKE TABLE FORMATS CONSISTENT


  The two types of tables that occur in a technical publication
  are text tables and annex tables.
  1. Text tables are relatively small and are referred to and
      are part of the text.
  2. Annex tables occur at the end of the publication (in the
      appendices) or at the end of the chapter. They are
      generally page length or longer.

  Text tables usually contain data that are too long, too
  complicated, or too diverse to illustrate in a chart.
                     Formatting tables

The general rules for tables hold for all types:
• Make sure your table has a number and a title
• Make sure all columns are labeled
• Make sure every cell contains data, even if it’s n.a., which signifies
  not applicable.
• Make sure all symbols are explained in notes at the bottom of the
  table. Symbol indicators include n.a. and the em dash.
              Formatting bar charts


Bar charts are perhaps the most versatile kind of chart, since
they can replace almost any other kind of chart (i.e., line
chart, pie chart, and scatter chart).
Anatomy of a Table
3. ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS



    Explain acronyms and abbreviations at first
    mention in the document and/or in each chapter.

    The key is to be consistent in whatever style you
    choose to follow.
4. SPECIAL USE OF WORDS

  Make a list of any words for which you have
  made a special choice for usage. For example,
  any words with the following idiosyncrasies:
  a. Special hyphenation
  b. Special capitalization
  c. Special technical words/jargon used in the
      field
  d. Special style for table or figures
5. CONTENTS OF A REPORT

 Most reports will contain some or all of the following
 sections, in this order:
    Abstract or summary
    Acknowledgments
    Introduction
    Objectives
    Theory
    Method or Methodology or Procedures
    Results
    Discussion or interpretation
    Conclusion
    Recommendations
    References and/or bibliography
    Appendices
6. MATCH HEADS WITH CONTENTS


     Make sure heads in text match table of
     contents.
 7. MAKE YOUR POINT


Shorten and clarify excessively long sentences
8. ENSURE ACCURACY

  Ensure accuracy and consistency of all
  cross-references.
               9. COMPARED WITH
               OR COMPARED TO?

Compare with—the more everyday term, is used when things or
concepts are placed side by side to examine their differences and
similarities:
“Students received an average grade of 90%, an improvement,
compared with the testing in 2002, in which their average grade was
60%.”

Compare to—puts like things in the same category to create an
analogy:
“The students’ successful completion of the test could be compared to
bright sunshine after the rain.”
10. ALPHABETICAL ORDER

   Try to list categories in alphabetical order, unless
   there is a technical reason for ordering them
   otherwise.