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Writing expert reports: Five key points to ensure readability

Research articles : 
There are many good quality writing guides available, but most of them are lengthy and busy professionals may not have the time or inclination to read them. The following brief list contains 5 elementary points which almost all writing guides would agree with. Adhering to these points will increase readability and force organization and planning. It is intended that this article be handed to experts at commencement of the retainer, but lawyers and other writers would do well to abide by them too.
  1. Number the paragraphs.
    This facilitates discussion of the report.
  1. Write in short sentences.
    20-25 words should be the maximum length of each sentence. When you have finished the report, scan the text to look for sentences that run over two lines. Shorten these sentences.
  1. Write in short paragraphs.
    Each paragraph should discuss only one idea. Paragraphs should not be longer than 5 or six lines. When you have finished the report, scan the text for long paragraphs. Split paragraphs up where necessary.
  1. Use headings and sub headings.
    Headings help guide the reader and facilitate finding particular points that one has seen before. At a minimum reports should have one heading or sub heading on each page, although generally more will be appropriate. The headings and sub-headings should make sense when read apart from the text. In other words, reading just the headings in order as they appear in the table of contents should make sense and give the reader a good indication of the content of the report. Check this by reading the primary headings in sequence. Then under each primary heading, read the sub-headings in sequence. Then under each sub heading, read the sub sub-headings in sequence etc. Ensure that each set of headings flow in a logical continuation, making sense when read apart from the text.
  1. Avoid pronouns.
    Pronouns can make writing hard to follow. For example, if speaking about two designs, one done by person A and another done by person B. Be weary of saying “…this design…”. It may be clear to you which design you are talking about, but readers lose track with words like: it, this, that, he, she, they, them etc. Establish short forms (e.g. Design A, Design B) and refer to those short forms instead of using pronouns.