Report Writing

by Clare Forrest

Step six – format

Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design... layout, processes, and procedures.

Tom Peters

The problem with word processors is that they come with lots of ways to make your text look more interesting. Boxes, different fonts, bold, underline, bullet lists, colour, graphs – the list goes on.

Why is this a problem? Because most of us aren’t trained graphic designers and we can easily end up making our pages look scruffy and over-complicated. We chose clashing fonts or pictures that look amateurish or dated. It’s so easy to ruin a good report by over-formatting.

Just as with your writing style, the rule here is to keep it simple. The key principles for elegant presentation are:

  • Leave plenty of white space on each page – it makes a document look more accessible and readable
  • Use bullets for lists – as shown here
  • Consider using bold and/or a larger font size for headlines and emphasis
  • Make sure that the left margin is wide enough for binding
  • Put in page and paragraph numbers.


  • Don’t use more than two font styles – and preferably only use one.
  • DON’T LITTER TEXT WITH Capital Letters. Use lower case and bold for a cleaner look.
  • Don’t underline text. It cramps the text, obscures letters and makes text harder to read.