Report Formatting

Writing Style

There are several points that you will need to consider when you are writing your report:

Your instructor will advise whether the report should be written in the ‘active’ or ‘passive’ voice.

  • The active voice reads as follows: ‘I recommend …’
  • The passive voice reads as follows: ‘It is recommended that …’
  • The active voice allows you to write short, punchy sentences.
  • The passive appears more formal and considered.

Be aware of these differences and avoid mixing the two voices.


Most written reports should avoid using overly complicated language. If a report is to persuade, brief or justify, its message must be clear. Furthermore, don’t swamp the factual presentation of data with sophisticated, lengthy sentences. Avoid using unnecessary jargon. This confuses even the most informed reader. Ensure that your abbreviations are standardised. All too often authors invent their own jargon to ease the pressure on writing things in full. Be cautious of confusing your reader.

Use of Language

Most reports should avoid the use of subjective language. For example, to report on a change in colouration from a “stunning green to a beautiful blue” is to project your own values onto a measurable outcome. What does the term “beautiful” mean to you? What will it mean to your reader? Such subjective or personal language has no place in the more objective field of report writing.


The following guideline will help you produce an easy to read report:

Leave wide margins for binding and feedback comments from your instructor

  • Paragraphs should be short and concise
  • Headings should be clear – highlighted in bold or underlined
  • All diagrams and illustrations should be labelled and numbered
  • All standard units, measurements and technical terminology should be listed in a glossary of terms at the back of your report