Category Archives: Write a Great Report

Four Tips to Help You Write a Better Report NOW

Four Tips to Help You Write a Better Report NOWIf you want to be successful in just about any line of work, solid written communication skills will help you immensely. Yesterday I talked about report writing as it pertains to audits. I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful with DEL and FIN if I had not been a good writer.

One of my favorite writing-oriented blogs, Copyblogger, has predicted that content creators will be the next generation of in-demand workers.

Think about it: how many blogs do you follow? I follow at least 10, if not more, and a blogger who sticks around for any length of time gets better ranking in search, and a lot more credibility. After all, how many scam artists stick around for five years generating great content that you want to read? Not many.

I am working on an ebook that will be filled with tips on how to write a great report. In the meantime, here are four tips to help you write a better report NOW, regardless of the type of report.

1.    Organization is Key!

Organize your thoughts BEFORE you begin writing. A solid report is key to being taken seriously when it comes to loan audits, and perhaps every other type of report needed in the workplace. How do you do this? Well….

2.     Start by Creating an Outline

Remember that English teacher who told you to sketch an outline? Yes, it still works. And it’s OK if you don’t go with your initial ideas on how to organize the information. The point is to get something down on paper, and refine it as you go along.

Consider the most important points. If you have one or more very important points to make, put them first. Refine further by priority.

Are there points that you MUST make? If so, consider placing them first in your outline.

Also, think about how the information will flow for the reader. Is the information choppy and out of logical order? If it’s not well organized, the reader could be confused.

3.    Group Similar Points Together Under Headings

To illustrate my point on this tip, I will use an example from my own materials.

If you’ve read my DIY Mortgage Review for Borrowers, you know that I have different types of audits. To make things flow for the reader, I break up the information in the book by audit type.

Here are some of the headings/sections that might make sense in an audit report and an appropriate order:

Discussion of limitations of report
Snapshot of details
Chain of Ownership/Recorded Documents
The Note
The Deed of Trust/Mortgage
Bankruptcy Proceedings
Public Sources of Information

This is almost exactly the order my reports follow, with some variation when it makes sense.

3.    Is Your Final Conclusion Supported by the Evidence You Uncovered?

This is a BIG one. If all of your research points in one direction, and you reach a conclusion that is going in the opposite conclusion, there’s a problem.

In coaching people in report writing, I’ve found that this is the single biggest problem, aside from grammar and punctuation. Your conclusion must be supported by the evidence.

If your conclusion is NOT supported by the evidence, people will wonder about your motivation.

I talk about incentives all the time – whenever I see a report that does not make sense, I immediately think that someone is being paid to reach a particular conclusion. This happens frequently with some large studies, for example, medial studies underwritten by pharmaceutical companies. And yes, you are being paid to dig around for your client, but that does NOT mean you should make up or modify your conclusion because your client wants it to turn out in their favor.

Another reason this is bad juju is because anyone with critical thinking skills (like an attorney) will pick your report apart in minutes. And then you’ll be dealing with a very angry client who will want to blame you for telling them what they want to hear.

Sometimes, homeowners and even attorneys are not logical – they are angry and will do things that could come back to haunt you. Be brutally honest with your client about your findings so that they don’t do something they, or you, will regret later, and be sure to document that.

4. Use Proper Grammar and Punctuation, and a Consistent Font and Margins Throughout the Report

This is all about attention to details. People do make judgments about you when you don’t use proper English. If you don’t know how to spell something, look it up!

And make sure your margins and fonts are the same throughout the report.

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A Great Written Report Sets You Apart from Your Competition

A Great Written Report Sets You Apart from Your CompetitionOne of the main questions I am asked by people who want to learn how to audit for others is about report writing. Specifically, I get asked by people if I have created a cookie cutter solution to their report writing problems.

The answer to that question is “no.”

All of my reports do have some consistent features. They are on my letterhead, with the same re: line, and show a snapshot of the loan’s details on the first page of the report. After that, they are organized by the main parts of the audit.

My reports have always set me apart from the competition. If you want to be taken seriously in any type of work, write a great report and watch what happens.

Written communication skills are important these days. I can’t tell you how many times people (homeowners, lawyers, others) have made assumptions about me, my services, and my audits, especially during the “loan audits are a scam” period of time. When they read my report, usually the light came on for them. Many were openly surprised at the quality of the report.

Contrast that with cookie cutter audit reports using software, which don’t really tell you anything. However, they were 100 pages long, and looked like it was a great value. If it was 100 pages long, it must be packed full of information. Who wouldn’t be impressed by that?

You can’t impress everyone, however. Some people have already made up their minds about what you have to say. They just won’t be able to use a crappy report to discredit you. You’ve just removed one issue from their arsenal. This makes is much more likely that that their agenda will be exposed.

Written communication skills are rare these days, so when someone reads a professional looking written report that clearly conveys their points and arguments, it impresses the hell out of them.

I can honestly say that my business success with FIN and DEL are attributable in major part to being a good writer. I became a good writer because I read a lot as a kid.

My parents divorced and I lived with my dad and stepmother. We had a “democracy” when it came to television, and there were three of us kids: two boys and me, the oldest, and the only girl.

You have probably already figured out that I was “outvoted” 99% of the time when it came to watching anything on television.

I started reading instead. I read everything I could get my hands on as a kid. I read stuff that I wasn’t supposed to read. I learned to read fast and got very good a reading comprehension.

I was terrible at math, however. That didn’t improve until grad school.

However, you don’t need to be a genius at reading to write a good report. Maybe now that you’re “grown up” you’ll be better at it, like my math skills.

Or, perhaps you just need to spend some time organizing your thoughts and develop YOUR signature report.

If you can string together sentences using proper grammar and punctuation, my guide will help you organize your thoughts so that you can write a great report – whether it’s an audit report for someone else, or for something else you need to write for work or even for your personal goals.

A solid written report will knock the socks off your clients, supervisors and whoever else matters.

Come back tomorrow for a new series I’m starting about writing a great report for anything. This is in preparation for the launch of my new writing guide, which will be available on December 1, 2013.

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