Language Tips for Report Writing


Use specific words (red and blue) rather than general ones (brightly coloured).

Use concrete words (rain, fog) rather than abstract ones (bad weather).

Use plain words (began, said, end) rather than flowery ones (commenced, stated, termination).

Use positive words (he was poor) rather than negative ones (he was not rich - the reader at once wants to know, how not rich was he?)

Use the active voice (police took no action) rather than the passive voice (no action was taken).

Don't overstate: fell is starker than plunged.

Don't lard the story with emotive or `dramatic' words (astonishing, staggering, sensational, shock).

Avoid non-working words that cluster together like derelicts (but for the fact that, the question as to whether, there is no doubt that).

Don't use unknown quantities (very, really, quite, truly - how much is very?)

Never qualify absolutes. A thing cannot be quite impossible, glaringly obvious or most essential any more than it can be absolutely absolute.

Don't use wrong prepositions. (Check them for sense: we may agree on this point; you may agree with this opinion; she may agree to this proposal.)

Use short sentences, but not all of the same length.

If a sentence reads as if it has something wrong with it, it has something wrong with it.

Words are facts. Check them (for spelling and meaning) as you would any other.

- from Waterhouse on Newspaper Style by Keith Waterhouse (Penguin Books)