There are (at least) two types of report readers in the world.
- People who want to follow you as you work through to the answer
- People who want to know the answer straight away
This causes much frustration in report writing because each type of reader thinks, ‘Obviously, you need to give me the “so what” first’, or ‘Obviously, your report doesn’t make sense unless you build it up from strong foundations’.
Type 1 people
- Scientists and anyone with Dr in their name
- Public servants
Type 2 people
I used to write Type 1 reports. Then one project involving lots of lawyers turned me into a Type 2 report writer. This has worked well for me recently, as I’ve been working with architects and urban designers.
Right now, though, I am now turning a Type 2 report into a Type 1 report because the client is a scientist plus a public servant. Sadly, we actually want Type 2 people to read this report but can’t say no to the Type 1 client body.
(There is a halfway house on this — long executive summaries. But it’s not a perfect solution.)