LawProse Lesson #383: The parts of a report.

LawProse Lesson #383: The parts of a report.

Lawyers are often called on to write reports for various types of clients, from legislative committees to patentees to special litigation committees, to name just a few. They can run to hundreds or even thousands of pages. Longer than a memo, a report has these expected sections, at a minimum:

Title page. The title page contains the title and most of the essential facts about the subject, the writer, the intended audience, and the material of the report. Its purpose is to show how the report relates to the parties concerned and establish it in a proper perspective.

Table of contents. The table of contents briefly outlines all the topics in series. It acquaints readers with the avenues followed by the writer in developing a theme. Normally it reflects the headings to the second level of subhead.

Summary. The summary or précis gives a one- or two-page synopsis of the main conclusions.

Body. The body is the heart of the report, fully elaborating the subject in detail. Its sections should be arranged under boldface headings corresponding to those in the table of contents. The headings are typically boldface in the body but lightface in the table of contents.

Appendixes. The appendixes are logically ordered to support, amplify, or give further evidence of what is contained in the body. These supplementary materials can cover a broad array of items. They should always be made user-friendly.

Index. The index is arranged alphabetically to help readers find important words, phrases, names mentioned, and significant topics. Of course, the index must be one of the last things prepared. Many writers skip it altogether because they (1) are impatient to release the document, (2) forget about the importance of a good index, or (3) have never prepared one. For anyone familiar with books, the process should be intuitive. At LawProse, we assign one person to compile names (proper nouns), another to assemble the topics covered, and a third to marshal all the important words and phrases. Then we combine the three sets, proofread several times, and doublecheck as necessary.

The parts of a report vary in importance reader by reader. The point is to take many types of readers into account.

If you don’t do that, you may be called into account.

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