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Writing Report

Writing Report

Writing Report

Hi lads

I was wondering if there anyone could advice me on writing technical structural Engineering report. How can I improve my writing.

Providing any resources would be much appreciated.

RE: Writing Report

There must be past examples of this in your office?

Fundamental things I would say:

- Be accurate
- Be factual
- Do not speculate. Facts only.
- Do not assume.
- If you have inspected something for example.. “the wall appears to be 200mm thick”. You do not say “the wall is 200mm thick”. Nothing is, everything appears to be!
- Be clear and concise.
- Append sketches/drawings as needed.

Follow a tried and tested layout and set out your report accordingly. Typical contents for an inspection report might be as follows:

1. Introduction
2. Scope
3. Findings and observations
4. Analysis
5. Conclusions & recommendations

This varies of course depending on the type of report you’re doing.

RE: Writing Report

- https://weare.guru/churchill-on-the-importance-of-...
- Books/articles by Baden Eunson

A good way to go is to set up a table of contents starting with the Level 1 headings (1, 2 etc) then Level 2 (1.1, 1.2, 2.1 etc), Level 3/4 if needed. Then refer back to your scope of work to see that you've addressed everything you're required to without having added anything unnecessary. Then use dot points to list the main points under each heading - don't worry about full sentences and finding the right words at this stage. Review your dot points to see if the report proceeds logically, and try to put yourself in your reader's shoes to check it answers the questions they've asked or are likely to ask. Decide whether any parts are too detailed for the main body of the report and move them to an appendix. Once you're happy with the structure and content, write the full sentences. This last part should be fairly quick since you've already done the thinking. Diving in and writing the full-sentence version then deciding you've got the whole structure and content wrong will waste a lot of time.

Write an executive summary if the report is fairly dense reading.

Make sure you set out any assumptions you made and why they were made. Include them in the Recommendations section as items the client needs to confirm.

Quote (MIStructE-IRE)

If you have inspected something for example.. “the wall appears to be 200mm thick”. You do not say “the wall is 200mm thick”. Nothing is, everything appears to be!
I'll assume this provides some measure of protection in UK/Ireland. I doubt it would in Australia and would make me wonder why I'm paying for this report if I were the client reading it. If something is uncertain, explain why that's the case and decide whether it's critical to investigate further to remove the uncertainty. Advise the client accordingly.

I would however recommend further inspection if your scope was visual inspection only. Eg if you were engaged to inspect from ground level, note that in the report and recommend that up-close inspection using appropriate access methods be done to confirm there aren't hidden problems. Or you might recommends that NDT or invasive testing be done to confirm the visual finding of no problems.

Most important of all - don't assume your client has read and understood your report. If there's something important in there, talk to them or put it in the cover email.

RE: Writing Report

I agree with you there Steve, and I’d often be the first to point out that engineer’s reports in my country aren’t worth the paper they’re written on!

RE: Writing Report

No judgment - when in Rome, after all.

RE: Writing Report

First off GET YOUR ENGLISH RIGHT. It is advise, not advice. If anything will turn off a knowledge person it is poor English. Another point, keep it concise if possible. Early on in my report writing (of the thousands I have written) I had a call from a client wanting to know an important fact that he could not find in my report. It was buried in lot of words. From then on I kept that call in in mind with a question: "Is this answering the client's question clearly?". A big fat report may well turn off someone with no time to read a lot of verbiage.

RE: Writing Report

Quote (It is advise, not advice.)

Microsoft Word still hasn't figured this out.hammer

RE: Writing Report

I suggest reading Strunk and White's book, "The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition." It won't take long and it includes such advice as "Omit needless words." See ISBN-10: 9780205309023

I would also suggest reading "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" by Edward R. Tufte.

RE: Writing Report

There are limitless ways to concoct an engineering report. I have written hundreds, perhaps thousands, over the past 40 years. One simple rule to follow is that all reports written by one person, should be reviewed by another for technical accuracy, readability, clarity of issues and liability. Having started my career in a relatively large company with a clear hierarchy of review authority, I learned a lot about presentation of data, correlation of data with the written summary and certainly the terms and statements that absorb liability. Mentorship is a tremendous asset for report preparation.

Each person who was authorized to be the final reviewer of technical reports had to be "blessed" by a review board before they were given that authority. After a sufficient time as the primary author, I was "knighted" as a Principal reviewer and reviewed and edited hundreds and hundreds of reports. One of my pet peeves was having to spend my time correcting spelling and grammar, which distracted me from the technically important issues.

Write each line of a report considering that someone adverse to your position will read it and challenge it. If for any reason there is a legal claim or issue, you will have to defend your report from numerous directions, depending on the positions of adversity of other parties. At the least, you will be defending your premises to your client and trying to educate them on why and how you did what you did.

I characterize reports in two ways. A brief letter report, typically less than five pages, can be written in first person voice. A formal report, with a cover letter, table of contents and body of the report, should be written in third person. This helps maintain objectivity.

Good luck. Don't be afraid of the writing. Write, let it sit for a while, then go back and read it to see if it still makes sense!

RE: Writing Report

Definitely have someone proof read your work. No matter how much you proof your own work, it is hard to keep your mind from "filling in blanks" that the actual Client will not fill in.

State your primary conclusions early and concisely and get long winded later in the report not early.

Be careful about terminology that has no real definition. While we can easily state when something is not structurally sound if it exceeds all known boundaries of strength for that material it is very hard to define something as "structurally sound" or "structurally safe". You can state whether it meets a specific code or not but I do not know of an agreed on definition of structurally sound/safe/OkieDokie. Early in the report, define what code or methodology you are using for assessing the situation (IBC 2015, ASCE etc.)

Also be careful about how much noose you put your neck in. If you only reviewed the roof, do not state "There are no structural issues with the building". Your statements should mirror your scope of work. "There were no obvious structural issues noted in the roof areas reviewed."

RE: Writing Report

A gizmo/gadget/contraption/structure "complies with applicable clauses based upon observations at the time of review" (and go on to identify what these are). That does not mean it is "safe", because it can only ever be as safe as the people using it. Never, ever say that something is "safe". If something in your neck of the woods requires the use of that word or something like it, that word has to go hand-in-hand with explanations of what the user is responsible for, in order to maintain that condition.

RE: Writing Report

First thing to know about your report is who is going to read it. Is it another technical party like an engineer or architect who just needs the numbers or is it the owner or contractor who doesn't have a technical background.

Either audience can use a report which has a clear flow. The most important thing is the background and the purpose of the report. With the investigation, analysis, and results leading to a summary or recommendations which will fulfill the purpose of the report.

As others have mentioned concisely describe the investigation, analysis and results. The background with purpose and summary is where you can put in some wordsmithing.

RE: Writing Report

Spend time on editing the report.

RE: Writing Report

I'd add that having a good template (word or other similar) allows you to concentrate on the content rather than the minutiae of formatting.

Things like consistent headings and numbering styles, & table formatting styles (in word), and automatically populating tables of contents based on these take a lot of the hassle out of producing something that looks professional.

A good template should also have defined sections to help you outline the content you will write.

RE: Writing Report

I use the text to speech program on my computer to read the report back to me. It is very helpful. i also use the speech to text function to write some of it - saves some typing.

RE: Writing Report

Here is another good book.

I don't know if I would purchase a new ($45) version, but there are used copies for ~$20 and I think the book is definitely worth that.

Pocket Book of Technical Writing for Engineers & Scientists (McGraw-Hill's Best: Basic Engineering Series and Tools) 3rd Edition


RE: Writing Report

Just skimming the thread....it appears several mentioned scope....and that is important if we are talking a evaluation of a existing structure. For such a inspection, you need to make it clear what you were asked to look at.....and establish the limits of your liability in this regard. (E.g. we looked at the floor....not the foundation on the other side of the building.)

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