How to write a good council report29 Jul 2022
Council report writing can lead to quite the headache if you're faced with writing your first one. Unlike other report styles, I've learned it will take some practice — and perhaps a few rewrites — until you've drafted something sufficient. There really aren't many word guidelines when it comes to writing a good council report. Make your report too wordy, you could distract the reader from the important information. Keep too much out and your readers might not understand the goal and purpose of your report. Therefore, for leaders like ourselves, it takes finding that happy spot in the middle that delivers the facts without any excessive wording.
What is a council report?
By definition, a council report is a document that contains the findings, recommendations, and other information about a particular topic. It's usually written by an individual or a group of people who were assigned to investigate the subject. Your council report should be written in such a way that it will be of use to those who are not experts on the subject matter.
The goal is for the report to be understood by everyone who reads it. What makes a council report different from other reports is it gets delivered to a council, where councillors need to make decisions based on the information you've provided. You could compare the purpose of a council report to board reports and ministerial briefs.
Tips for improving your report writing
Although there is room for some creative freedom, there are some guidelines that should be followed when writing these types of reports.
Understand your audience
According to Business Writing for Everyone, answering the question "what does your audience expect to learn from your report?" can help you shape a good report. Who your intended audience will be should be a huge factor in how you deliver your report and the language you'll be consistently using throughout the writing process.
Your first audience for a council report is going to be the councillors and normally they have a very light idea of the subject matter. So, your report should be high level and strategic to ensure they understand the information you're giving. If your audience is already comfortable with the subject matter of your report and you are educating them on one particular area, then this should impact how much detail you go into on background information.
There's also a secondary audience you should keep in mind when writing council reports: the public. Council reports are uploaded onto the council website, which should give you even more of an incentive to make the language inclusive, simple to understand and ensure it represents the council well. A simple error such as spelling mistakes could leave bad impression.
Use strategic headings and subheadings
The organisation of your council report will help guide your reader in their understanding of the topic you're delivering on. In addition to ensuring you remain aligned with your expected writing style (APA, MLA, Chicago etc.), using your headings and subheadings strategically will ensure your audience has time to absorb what they're reading before being thrown into the next point. Simply separating information based on relevance can greatly improve the readability of your report.
Edit, edit. edit
There's a line that experienced professional writers use that will distinguish them from those just entering the realm of writing. It's being able to let go of the wasted words in their content and replace them with high-quality word choices that get information across — without needing to fluff up their word count.
Whereas the first draft of your report is your opportunity to get out all the information you think you'll need, the second, third and fourth drafts continue to concentrate that information on what you actually need to deliver your message. Cut out the filler and replace it with facts and statistics that prove your findings in a way that's easy to understand.
Council report writing is definitely not the same as drafting email correspondence between colleagues. It takes strategic planning, concise language and an optimal amount of clarity. Work with your governance team to help edit and recommend rewrites to your reports before the final draft.
It can be time-consuming to get the knack for writing good council reports but don't worry, ICML is here to help. Our council report writing workshops are geared towards the unique organisations that sign up. You'll get first-hand knowledge of the purpose of these reports, how to formulate them in a unique and engaging way – without the need for internal rewriting — and more.
Contact us to discuss other training options.