White Paper: the language of report writing

Your students want to work on Report Writing. Help! What should you teach them? This white paper suggests sixteen areas, with priorities.


Halima Meraj

What a great contribution Paul ! I will certainly use these important points when teaching Business English and IELTS Academic writing. I also briefly viewed other uploads you have, which are fruitful resources for teachers like myself and students alike. I wont be at the conference in Prague but wish you lots of success.
Many thanks,
Halima Meraj

Tom Carlson

HI Paul,
I can’t thank you enough for this. I was in the process of writing my own materials for just exactly this problem and you’ve saved me a lot of time thinking through what to cover and what to leave out.

Unfortunately I don’t have much yet to offer in return, but I’ll be collecting new samples as of now.

I can answer the question about the use of present perfect in American English. It is a marker of formality here to use present perfect for present results, which is to say it’s never “ungrammatical”, in the narrow sense of the word, to use present perfect the (for lack of a better term) British way, but it is often the wrong register, giving the whole utterance a much more formal tone than is intended. Americans often comment that Brits are “more formal”, which hasn’t always been my experience, depending on social class/education factors, and I suspect that the prominence of present perfect is one reason why Americans come away feeling like a conversation with a Brit was more formal than it would have seemed between Yanks.

BTW, we also commonly neglect to use the present perfect with Experience types of present perfect (e.g. I’ve never seen that film = I never saw that film). This is normal for low and lowest register, but becomes unusual in neutral register and disappears for higher registers. All of this is not backed up by any studies, but is only my observation.

Keep it coming, Paul! I love your stuff.

Jonathan Holmes


Thoroughly agree with your final statement and so enjoyed browsing your paper. Faced with needs analyses that so frequently refer to report writing, I am often left wanting by ‘coursebooks’ attempts at guidqnce. A decent analysis of a number of reports would reveal common languge resources, much onthe same way you have attempted with this analsysis of course materials. I would like to respond in detail, and shall do so when tiime permits.



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