In this article, a group of professional report writers from Advanced Writers will take a look at the typical mistakes made in technical report writing.

What is technical report writing

A technical report consists of:

  • Title page
  • Summary
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendix (if necessary)

Typical mistakes made in a technical report 

Substandard punctuation

Every day, punctuation is used by students. However, not everyone has a good knowledge of how all the punctuation works. Full stops and question marks are easy to use, but knowing how and where commas should be used, how colons and semicolons should be used and where hyphens need to be used is not always easy. 

Rectifying these mistakes. Look for a well-known guide on punctuation and study it until you’ve properly understood it. Particularly focus on any aspects of punctuation that you struggle with and work with this until you feel confident with it. 

An unorganized structure

A lot of the time, a technical report leaves readers feeling confused as it fails to hit the objectives in mind as it’s not been planned effectively from the offset. If a report has not been planned properly, the end result can end up being unorganized. It becomes particularly difficult to locate things in the report, cross-references become messy and sections don’t follow as they should in sequence, etc. If you’re lucky, you will just leave your reader feeling frustrated but an unorganized technical report may even leave the report worthless if it is not able to be used.

Rectifying these mistakes. Before you begin working on a technical report, you need to think about the layout of the document. Begin by creating a simple outline so that you can be sure that you will structure your report the best way possible. Once you have written your report, make sure you review it before you publish it. Ask a colleague or your lecturer to cast their eyes over it too. This way they may be able to point out any improvements that are required to the structure of the report. Ultimately, a technical report needs to be logical and informative. 

Inconsistency

A technical report needs to contain ideas that are clear and to the point. This is sometimes easier said than done and can prove difficult, particularly when a report is constructed using different authors and created over a period of time. This can affect the style, tone, style, point of view, etc. 

Rectifying these mistakes. If you decide that changes need to be made to your report, check the tense and the tone used. This way if you add anything new to your report it fits in with what already exists. Grammatical errors and typos are more frowned upon than switching between tenses.   

Presentation

Obviously, technical report writing will consist of technical language which can be difficult to understand. Therefore try and use ‘normal’ language where it works. Technical writing can be made worse when it’s presented poorly. It is negative when sentences are long and become hard to read. Poor sentences will make readers switch off as will jargon and difficult to read sentences.

Rectifying these mistakes. A way to overcome presentation issues is to create sentences and paragraphs that are shorter. That said, you don’t want to lose the meaning of what you are trying to say. Try and use the most appropriate words and phrases to prevent this. Use bullet points where possible to break up information. Bullets can also help to make grammar simpler as they cut out the use of the need for full sentences. 

Abstraction 

Quite often reports can end up filled with nouns and therefore they end up coming rather abstract. Sometimes, simple language is more than adequate to prevent losing clarity in a technical report. The excess use of nouns can just make your report difficult and boring to read. 

Rectifying these mistakes. Rather than using abstract language full of nouns, choose more straightforward verbs i.e instead of saying ‘green in color’ just say ‘green.’ 

Jargon

Your readers inform the style and content of your report.  Therefore, it is important to keep your readers in mind when you are writing your technical report. If your report is for a specific set of readers, then it is ok to use technical language and it may even be crucial to do so. If, however, it is for a general audience, then you need to be careful about what jargon and language you use. Although some language may be familiar to you, it may not be to your readers.

Rectifying these mistakes. Before you write anything, think about your readers. Consider what level of language would be appropriate for your readers. Don’t use any technical terms that your readers may not use. It may be worth adding a glossary and a list of abbreviations at the beginning of your report.  Another option would be to explain any technical language using footnotes. 

It’s not unusual to find technical report writing difficult and particularly if it’s something that you don’t do very often. It can be a struggle to create a technical report that reads smoothly. 

However, if you take the above advice into account and avoid some mistakes, you will start to see your technical report writing improve and it will become much clearer. This will make things a lot easier for your readers as well as you, the writer.