Corinna Lines | June 18, 2020
This blog post could have been called ‘Report title selection’ or ‘Ensuring a report is read’. But why waste your very first chance to catch your readers’ attention? For anything you write, the title is an opportunity to get people excited about the content. That means making sure every word in the title conveys as much information as possible.
We often default to boring report titles because they feel safe. Or because it’s what colleagues or managers expect. Or because it’s just what those reports are always called. But the title of your report is crucial. It’s the first impression you make on your reader, and your first chance to tell them what issue the report addresses.
If the title of your report clearly represents the contents, both writer and reader benefit. The writer gets their message across, and the reader knows what they’re going to find out.
It’s not really. Start by thinking about your reader. If the report arrived in your inbox, what would make you want to read it?
Here are some tips to help you write a compelling title.
Annual report 2020. Boring! You may assume you have to call it that. But it may just be the default option. If you have to include those words, put them in a subtitle on the cover to keep management happy.
If Santa was writing his annual report, he might choose:
2020: More toys than ever
One billion happy children: job done
Choose carefully so your title matches your brand and your audience.
What is the reader going to find out? Imagine explaining what your report is about to a reader sitting opposite you. Say it aloud: ‘I’m writing a report about…’ Then see if you can turn it into a compelling title. This approach can be a good way to find a more natural way of putting things — we often use words quite differently when we talk than when we write.
Sleigh feasibility study
Could Santa use a sleigh to deliver a billion presents in one night?
In an effort to save words, sometimes we pile them up in front of a noun (naming word). The result can be ambiguous or confusing. Try reordering the words so they make sense without making the reader disentangle them.
Elf wellbeing at work survey results
Results from surveying our elves’ wellbeing at work
As with noun strings, we can think that fewer words make a better title. But you want your reader to know what the report is about before they open it. Good writing means putting in the work so your reader doesn’t have to — a few more words can help them understand.
North Pole security
How we’ll improve security at our North Pole toy-making factory
You’ll know your own workplace and how far you can take this. Nobody tells Santa what he can and can’t use for his report titles, so he might go a bit crazy:
Laughing at courier delivery times — every year
When happy children are your key success factors
No reindeer ACC claims this century!
For generations, students writing essays have used long words to impress and increase their word count. Many of us entered the workforce believing we should use an extensive vocabulary at all times to demonstrate our expertise or mastery of our topic.
But plain language is all about writing for your reader. So first get their attention with your title. Then think about who they are, how busy they are, and how badly you want them to read your work. Now make it sing!
Slay your annual report dragon — time for a new chapter on annual reports.
Hook report readers with your structure — sort out the questions your reader wants you to answer.
Report Writing — join this workshop and learn to write reports your readers will want to read.
Business Writing Essentials — join this workshop and learn to write create clear, purposeful documents that connect with your audience and get results.