Writing a First Draft of a Formal Report

When drafting your Formal Report keep in mind the four most common and serious errors:

Examples on how to correct these errors:

Negative: The purpose of this investigation and formal report is to identify areas of the G. M. Dawson Club which could use improvement. Issues may include lack of participation opportunities, absence of event relevance to the variety of students in the club, lack of benefits and incentives for joining the club, lack of fundraising programs and poor communication lines between among club members.

Positive: The purpose of this investigation is to identify strategies for improving overall operations at the G.M. Dawson Club; including increasing participation opportunities, increasing relevance of events to a larger and more diverse student body, increasing benefits and incentives for participation and fundraising programs, as well as improving overall communications.

Negative: “Arts Connection needs to improve the current state of their morning care program as it could potentially become a risk to the children who attend and the centre itself. While their after school programs are the main points of emphasis for the organization, more attention needs to be put into the morning care.”

Positive:  By improving the morning care program and ensuring policies are in place and the afterschool program is efficiently organized, the Arts Connection will feel confident that the children are always protected from risk and actively involved in safe and healthy activities.

Drafting your Formal Report

Here are some notes to follow for writing the first draft of a Formal Report:

  • Use YOU attitudeevery sentence you write, consider your reader[s].
  • Ask yourself, does my reader already know this information? If you must repeat what they already know — phrase your sentences so that you acknowledge that you are providing information the reader already knows.

For example:

Wrong: “There are 5000 students attending and transportation needs are important to consider.”

Right: “Transportation for 5000 students is a major consideration because ….. (stay positive) …

  • Remember, you are NOT writing this report for the Instructor
  • Organize your report with small sections with bold headings so that a reader can quickly find the information they are looking for without having to read the entire report. Reports of this nature are often refereed to in meetings, with the reader looking to find specific details quickly, so organize the report for that reader.
  • Refer to visuals in the text with DETAILS: i.e. – “Figure 3 demonstrates that 70% of participating students prefer to fly to their destination.”.
  • Be sure your visuals are correctly titled and explained sufficiently in the text. Be sure to double check the text for correct  formatting examples.
  • Be sure to use YOU attitude in the introduction to the report. This will also help ensure that you are focused on your reader’s needs as you write the introduction; and only your reader’s needs.

Keep your self-editing eye on:

  • over use of the passive voice (which increases word count)
  • too much unnecessary information
  • remembering, you are writing this report for someone else, not for yourself and not for me – but for the person who can act on your recommendations
  • remembering, this is not an essay, so please ensure that the introduction does not read like an essay; keep your paragraphs short and to the point. Your reader(s) is busy
  • Editing with an eye for these three stylistic errors, which significantly increase your word count:
    • using a passive voice
    • unnecessary words
    • Unnecessary pronouns

Here are two examples on how to eliminate unnecessary words by staying focused on details:

Student Draft: 105 words:

Opinions from employees working at the FWI were collected by conducting a short voluntary survey. The survey is anonymous, and it asks for their communication preferences and suggestions toward any new communication technologies. A sample survey is attached in Appendix A. The result of the survey was then analyzed in order to create appropriate interview questions. Research was also done for each possible communication option mentioned in the survey. An interview was conducted with the IT manager, Bev Fotiuk, regarding the costs of implementation and maintenance of potential communication software. Interview questions are attached in Appendix B. The feasibility of respective software was also discussed.

REWRITE: 53 Words

Thirty three FWI employees responded to a short survey designed to gather data on communication practices and suggestions for improvements (Appendix A). From analyses of this survey data, and secondary research, interview questions were designed to measure the IT manager’s (Ms. Fotiuk) perspectives on cost and feasibility of implementing new communications systems or software (Appendix B).

Student Draft: 65 Words

Since the author’s church is currently using the paper based offering record system, the author had to interview other churches which are using a church finance computer program in order to estimate the cost and time taken. However, the author was only able to interview one person, who attends a different church, because most people felt uncomfortable by being asked about their church’s financial system.

REWRITE: 33 Words:

Estimations of time and cost for a digitized system of accounting for Church offerings are calculated based on a personal interview with a member of the Samsung Presbyterian Church, also located in Vancouver.

I hope these examples will impress you with the necessity of editing with a focus on eliminating unnecessary information AND providing details, rewriting in an active voice, and careful word choices; always prefer nouns over verbs.

  • PLEASE avoid the word ‘it’ – when you are self-editing, stop at every ‘it‘ and consider rephrasing the sentence.
  • PLEASE do not end a sentence with a two letter word: at, it, on, in, if, so, an, of,
  • Your report must be addressed to the reader – not to me.
  • And, you need a name and address for your reader, do the research and find the name and email address of your reader.
  • Your introduction is for your reader – not for me.
  • Do not provide information your reader already has in order to enlighten me. I have your proposals with the background in hand.
  • Avoid three verbs in a row
  • Never start a sentence with a number – always spell it out: 59 % … Fifty-nine percent ….  .
  • Stay in the present tense when possible.


“This survey was created to collect primary data that will be used to determine the efficiency of Web Checkout. With the results gathered, I will be able to find problematic points in the system, and make recommendations for improvement [38 words].


This is a survey to collect primary date to determine the efficiency of the Web Check-out system at ArtsIt, UBC. The results will indicate problems with the system and make

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