Hook report readers with your structure

Colleen Trolove | January 20, 2017

Introduction → body → conclusion? Throw that out the window. It creates a boring report that readers have to go through twice to understand.

Instead, structure reports based on your readers’ likely questions. This creates a report that hooks readers from the beginning.

Image, hook your reader, boy fishing.

Hook your reader. Image by OakleyOriginals / CC BY

What is this about?

That’s the first question people ask when they pick up a report. So answer it first. Write an informative title, and aim for four to nine words:

Assessment of the Effectiveness of our Content Management System

What does this report do?

Write a first sentence that says what the report does:

This report:

Why should I bother reading it?

In what way would readers benefit from trawling through your report?

When our content management system is easier to use, 16 hours each week of staff time will be freed up, equating to a salary saving of $26,624 a year.

Image, question mark.

Question mark. Image by Takomabibelot / CC0

Now I’m interested. Tell me more.

Brainstorm all the questions that your readers might expect the report to answer. Order them from most important — from the readers’ perspective — down to least important. That way, if readers give up reading halfway through, they will still take in the important information.

‘What improvements are you suggesting?’

‘How much will it cost in time and money to make the improvements?’

‘What other options did you consider, and why did you dismiss them?’

‘What were the good things about our content management system?’

‘What were the problems with our content management system?’

‘How did you assess the system?’

‘Who did you interview and why did you choose them?’

‘What did they say when you interviewed them?’

Same content; better order

By following your readers’ likely questions, you include the same content you’d have in an introduction → body → conclusion structure. But it’s in a more compelling order for the reader.

Come to Write’s next report writing workshop
Use your headings to emphasise structure

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