Unlike a traditional debate, wherein each side argues opposing positions on an issue, the middle ground method of argumentation is essentially an attempt to find a compromise. For example, if you were engaged in a debate about allowing prayer in public schools, one side would argue for and the other against. However, the third option would be the middle ground argument in which you would attempt to find a solution that satisfies both sides. The...
Unlike a traditional debate, wherein each side argues opposing positions on an issue, the middle ground method of argumentation is essentially an attempt to find a compromise. For example, if you were engaged in a debate about allowing prayer in public schools, one side would argue for and the other against. However, the third option would be the middle ground argument in which you would attempt to find a solution that satisfies both sides. The most important aspect of middle ground method is that both sides of the argument are given equal consideration, including the need for a solution and potential outcomes.
Using the example from above, your middle ground argument could be that prayer in school is clearly an emotionally charged issue for which there is no easy solution. On one hand, prayer is a very important aspect of many people's lives and they feel strongly that having prayer in school would benefit their children. On the other hand, many people feel that religion has no place in public schools and imposing prayer on children would violate their rights.
Having established the main argument and opposing viewpoints, you would then consider all the implications (legal, social, etc.) of including and excluding prayer in public schools. Your main objective is to find a compromise; therefore, after reviewing the evidence your position (claim) could be that the best possible outcome would be to allow a specific time and private space for students to pray. This should satisfy those that want prayer in school without imposing it on others or violating their rights.
It's worth noting that the middle ground argument probably won't completely satisfy either side, particularly when the issue is divisive. Nevertheless, the goal of the middle ground argument is to find a mutually agreeable solution that both sides can live with.
If Microsoft Office had been a country, it would have been the third most populous country in the world. 1.2 billion peopleusing a single suite of apps is mind-boggling. And, they “speak” 107 languages!
This guide is available to download as a free PDF. Download How to Create Professional Reports and Documents in Microsoft Word now. Feel free to copy and share this with your friends and family.
But right now, you and I are speaking in English and we are going to talk about the most popular tool in the Microsoft Office arsenal — Microsoft Word 2016.
This document editor is used for writing a variety of documents. From a simple application to the necessary resume. From a plain bucket list to an office memo. We think we can work with Word. But it is when we sit down to write a serious professional report, we discover an important fact.
Professional report writing needs a different set of skills.
So, ask yourself this — can you make the leap from a single document to a lengthy report? Do you know all the Microsoft Word features9 Tips to Learn All About Office 20169 Tips to Learn All About Office 2016Microsoft Office 2016 is among us. How are you mastering the latest version for the sake of your productivity? We tip you off to the best links for Office learning. Steal a march with these...Read More that will help manage this large scale document project? Can you collaborate on the work with other team members?
You may be a student, a small business owner, or an office worker…you will need to create a report or a professionally formatted document of some kind. This MakeUseOf guide will help you update your techniques and sharpen your design approach.
In this guide:
Writing a Report — Introduction | The Report Checklist
Useful Microsoft Word Tools — Paste Special | Researcher | Freeze Parts of Your Document
Work on the Layout & Design — Intro | Cover Page | Table of Contents | Header and Footer | Page Numbers | Font Styling | Paragraph Styling | Page Breaks | Styles and Themes | Captions | Quick Parts | Page Borders
References and Collaboration — Index | Bibliographies | Cross-Referencing | Comments
Finalize Your report — Signatures | Watermarks | Read Only | Print to PDF
The Next Step — Conclusion
Writing a Report
Report writing involves research and then publishing the outcome of that analysis. In the professional world, the “look” or appearance of what you publish is paramount. The eye-pleasing final result could burnish your reputation and enhance your personal brand.
The steps below will handhold you through the expert features in Microsoft Word 2016. Spend a lot of time on a plan. Start with these guidelines…
Step 1: Decide the Purpose
Before you begin the report, you must first know why you are writing it in the first place. Reports are of many kinds but they are either meant to inform or persuade. It can be meant for describing a technical process, sharing background information, or demonstrate progress on a project.
Ask yourself – What and Why. This will help you distill the purpose to the one main point and stick to it instead of rambling on with unnecessary details.
Step 2: Identify Your Audience
The second important consideration is to evaluate your audience. Will they be able to understand what you are talking about? Are there different levels of readers who will read the report? The reader’s knowledge of the subject will greatly influence the information that you need to include.
Decide on the primary audience and then script the report at the adequate technical level. The secondary audience can be supported with supplemental information at the end of the report.
Step 3: Know Your Topic
You must know what you are talking about. So, research the topic, and include all the relevant information to prove your point. Make sure that you come to a conclusion based on facts and not personal opinion. The information must be correct, current, and well-referenced.
Also use a variety of resources such as journals, newspaper articles, books, websites, brochures, raw data, annual reports, and speeches to help support your point. Just don’t stick to Wikipedia.
Step 4: Outline the Report
You have done the research. There’s a ton of information that is waiting to be typed and printed. But wait! Don’t drown before you enter the water. Prepare the final outline of the report which will be the chart of waypoints to help you navigate from start to finish. The outline is the blueprint. It will give you a bird’s eye view of the land and also show you where you need to fill in the details.
The structure of an idea report can include the following elements:
- Title Page
- Executive Summary
- Table of Contents
- The Body of the Report
- Bibliography and References
Microsoft Word’s Document Outline is a powerful feature that can help you organize a document even before you start filling it with research. Take advantage of brainstorming and mind-mapping templates8 MS Word Templates That Help You Brainstorm & Mind Map Your Ideas Quickly8 MS Word Templates That Help You Brainstorm & Mind Map Your Ideas QuicklyFree Word templates are not just about beautiful documents, perfect resumes, and cover pages. They can be vital for brainstorming and mind maps too. Here are eight Word templates for your ideation needs.Read More too.
Step 5: Write, Edit, Proofread, and Finish
Once you have structured your report, it is time to fill out the headers with content. I personally find it best to tackle a little bit of each section, and then bulk it up with information. You can do that if you want, or finish each section as you go down the report structure. Make sure you focus on presenting your ideas and using supportive evidence rather than spelling and grammar first. Outline your argument and write a few sentences that cast your main ideas. If you find something worth quoting, quote it.
Once the majority of your text is written, it is now time to read through it and make sure it flows well. Make sure you guide the reader’s understanding with transition words such as “This information shows…”, “In other words…”, “Similarly…” and do highlight relevant and key points.
Finally, spend time to proofread, check for grammar and spellingHow to Spell and Grammar Check in Microsoft WordHow to Spell and Grammar Check in Microsoft WordYou can customize Microsoft Word's built-in spelling and grammar checking tools to meet your needs. You can even use AutoCorrect to speed up your typing.Read More, and double-check all relevant information and its logical flow. It is best to leave at least one day to check and proofread your work. Don’t try to edit it straight after you think you have finished, as you will tend to miss read what you have written. Get some sleep, and proofread it the next day.
The Report Checklist
Before you go and submit or hand in your report that you have worked so hard on, make sure you have done the following:
- Completed the title page with the Title, Your Name, Date, Who the report is for, and a possible description of what the report is about.
- The contents page has appropriate headings and pages numbers are correct.
- Make sure the introduction covers key points, the scope of the report, and the objective it wants to meet.
- You have added captions above tables and below images/graphs.
- Does the content of the report present the information in a clear way, logical, factual, stay on topic, is to the point?
- Does the conclusion state the results, restate main idea’s, and does not include any new information?
- Are the headings and sub headings clearly labeled?
- Are quotes relevant, up-to-date, and correctly referenced?
- Have you used page breaks where appropriate?
Now, let’s launch Microsoft Word and take you through the features that will help piece together the draft of your report and present it as a professional document.
Useful Microsoft Word Features for Report Writing
Take these as bite-sized tips and master them one by one.
Microsoft Word is a big howitzer with many nuts and bolts. Let’s focus on the key skill sets and the tools you will need to plan, prepare, and present the professional report. The Microsoft Word features we will cover below are also productivity shortcuts that will make your job easier.
Tip: Use Microsoft Word 2016’s “Tell Me” assistant to learn more about new features in the Office suite.
Let’s start with three preliminary tools…
Use Paste Special
For most of us, when we need to copy text or an image into Word, the CTRL+V shortcut does just fine. But sometimes we might want to paste the copied data into another format, such as Excel data as an image. With the Paste Special command you can discard or specify the format when you paste a picture, presentation data, table, or object from any other program into Word.
You will work a lot with Excel tables and charts in a professional document.
If you just copy what you want and click paste, you will notice that it will insert the data as tables. But, if it is a large area of cells you want to paste, and you do not want to edit it, you may want to paste it as an image, with the extra option to edit it.
In Microsoft Excel: Select and highlight the cells that you want to copy > Press CTRL+C.
In Microsoft Word: Go to Home > Paste > Paste Special. Select Paste Special and from the dialog select Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet Object.
You can resize the data as it was an image, and if you double click, you will be able to edit the values. You can change the table or chart and redesign it. And, if you update the data in the chart or table in Excel, you can automatically refresh the chart in Word.
Try the right-click context menu too. The Paste Special menu pops up:
There are more options to import data from Excel into Word8 Surprising Ways You Can Import Data into Microsoft Word8 Surprising Ways You Can Import Data into Microsoft WordKnowing how to import data into Microsoft Word from any source, including Excel, PDF files, or other Word documents, can save you a lot of time. We'll show you all the tricks.Read More. The Microsoft Office Support page also describes them in detail.
Use the Researcher
Yes, there is Google and Wikipedia. But constantly switching from Word to your browser can hamper your productivity. Office 2016 brings in powerful research integration to this grunt work. The Researcher can not only help you find content from within Microsoft Word but also help you quickly add citations. It uses the Bing Knowledge Graph to find the right content to support your document.
Go to Ribbon > References tab and c Choose Researcher. A pane will open on the right with the search options.
Type a keyword for the topic want to search for and press Enter.
The Results pane shows a list of sources you can use in your document. Choose a topic to explore in detail.
Add the topic to your Microsoft Word document with a click on the plus sign on the top-right. You can also click the plus sign on any result to cite the source in your research document. The cite source helps you support your research with web sources and books.
As we will see later, an annotated bibliography is one of the toughest parts of a document. The Researcher is an intelligent assistant who steps in.
Freeze Part of Your Word Document
Let’s take for granted that your professional report will be a long and complex work. You can split the Word window into two panes so that you can view two different parts of a document at the same time. It is a valuable time saver when you want to copy and paste parts from one place to another or refer to one part of the document while working in another.
Go to Ribbon > View tab > Split.
To remove the split, click on Remove Split in the same tab.
The Windows group gives you several options to change the way you work with two or more documents. The features are self-explanatory.
To scroll both documents at the same time, click Synchronous Scrolling in the Window group on the View tab. You can also click on View Side by Side to put two parts of the document next to each other.
Tip: Use Split View to display two different layouts – for instance, Print and Outline. Set the split. Then, click in the pane that you want to change, and then select a different layout on the View tab.
Work on the Layout & Design
The presentation of a report is what gets someone to read a report in the first place, and that is why it is crucial that your report is well presented. If you had the choice of four reports to read, what will you choose?
- A hand written report.
- A document printed in black and white.
- A report printed on normal A4 paper in color.
- A report printed in color, with a catchy title page, neatly bounded, and slick?
You will pick up the fourth report because it will pull you towards it by the visual appearance alone.
The front cover is not the only reason. A well-designed report is easier to read. It is also easier to scan when you don’t have time to read. That is why you need to spend some time on your headers and footers, and the different styles and themes. In short – the formatting of every element in the report.
Formatting may seem like a difficult chore, but it is a fun exercise that will exercise all your creative muscles. The key takeaways will be the skills you can apply to anything in Microsoft Office going forward. And the time you will save with all the productivity tips learned here.
Microsoft Word 2016 has a wealthy set of features. These are only some of the ways that your report design can stand out from the rest and be professional. So, let’s break down the layout and design skills.
This section will cover these features step-by-step:
- Start with a Cover Page
- Make a Table of Contents
- Create Your Header and Footer
- Add Page Numbers
(Format the Content)
- Pick the Right Fonts
- Style the Paragraphs
- Control Page Breaks
- Use Styles and Themes
- Use Quick Parts
- Decorate with Page Borders
1. Start With a Cover Page
The first page is the first point of contact with your reader. It is also your opportunity to make a favorable impression. Don’t let your lack of artistic skills be an excuse because Word takes up the job with its in-built gallery of title pages. All you have to do is marry one to the theme of the report.
Microsoft Word 2016 offers you 16 pre-formatted templates and three more on Office.com.
Go to Insert > Pages Group > Cover Page.
The cover page appears at the beginning of the document by default.
As there are only 16 “official” templates on offer, you may find that all your other peers have the same cover page. So, why not customize it, and make it a bit more unique.
You can design a title page (or cover page) in Microsoft WordHow to Easily Make an Attractive Cover Page in Microsoft WordHow to Easily Make an Attractive Cover Page in Microsoft WordDo you believe in first impressions? The cover page is the first thing people will see of your word document. We show you how you can make that first impression a great one.Read More that can be an original in the stack. Save it as a template or easily change the design on the fly.
2. Make a Table of Contents
Casual readers scan. Good readers scan first and then dive deep. A table of contents provides the waypoints that help both. When it is a long and complicated document, wouldn’t you rather check the lay of the land before you head to the section that interests you? Consider a Table of Contents (TOC) if your document is more than 10 pages long.
In Microsoft Word, you don’t have to write the entire TOC by hand. There’s a Table of Contents automatic tool under the References tab which takes your outline and designs it for you. Also, you can easily keep it updated when you want to change something.
There are also templates you can download and fit it around the nature of the content. For instance, a TOC for a thesis will look different from that of a company’s annual report.
We have a complete tutorial on how to create a table of contents page in WordHow to Create a Table of Contents in Word & Free TemplatesHow to Create a Table of Contents in Word & Free TemplatesTable of contents are a great way to keep your documents organized and improve navigation. We show you how to create your own table of contents in four easy steps. Free templates included.Read More.
The gist of it is this:
Create the outline and use heading styles to organize the hierarchy. Apply the automatic TOC tool to the heading styles. Word 2016 searches for those headings and then inserts the table of contents into your document. Then you can automatically update your TOC if you make changes in your document.
For more hands-on control, you can also use the Manual Table of Contents style. Word inserts placeholder text and you have to insert and format each content in the list.
Headers and Footers are important in reports as the main purpose is to provide information about the report on every page. They are the common display areas for page numbers. The header of the document should contain the title of the report, and possibly the name of who created it. The title of the current section is helpful.
The footer, on the other hand, should include the page numbers, date of publication, and other administrative information that is required. Do note that some style guides have special guidelines for headers and footersHow to Add Chicago Style Footnotes in Microsoft WordHow to Add Chicago Style Footnotes in Microsoft WordFootnotes can help you complement text with additional details. Adding footnotes in Microsoft and using styles like Turabian, MLA, APA, or Chicago, is very easy. We show you what you need to know about footnotes.Read More.
Let’s start with the header in your document and give it a unique look.
Select Insert, then select either Header or Footer from the group. The built-in gallery shows you several options you can choose from.
The header and footer space is inserted in your document with placeholder text or table. The Header & Footer Tools opens on the Ribbon for other formatting work like the date, time, or picture.
Enter your text and then select Close Header and Footer.
You can start with a blank header and footer. If you have the design skills, use the Header & Footer Tools to design your own. Master the header and footer space if you want to create custom letterheads for your organization. You can use brand elements like company or organization logos at the top and neatly formatted footnotes at the bottom
Let’s try with and modify one of the inbuilt headers. I selected Facet from the gallery.
The final look took two minutes to put together with simple text effects and an icon sourced from the Microsoft Office icon gallery.
The header and footer are in place. But, how do you know where you are in the document? Insert page numbers as the next important signpost.
4. Add Page Numbers
Page numbers look best in the footer (unlike in the header as in the image above). You can add a basic page number from the Insert > Page Number button on the Ribbon. You can also add it from the Design tab that appears when you add the header and the footer.
You have a lot of control over page numbers. Choose from a wide range of number formats and customize them to your needs. In this case, we are adding the number to the footer, but you can put them at the top or even at the margins. In this example, I have placed the page number at the bottom left. But, I would like to change the default look and the format.
For example: Using a “Page X of XXX” makes for a better indicator on a long document.
Select the page number. Go to Insert > Quick Parts. From the drop-down menu, select Field. You can also reach the Field dialog from the Header and Footer Design tab.
Choose NumPages from the long list of field names. From the box on the right, you can pick a specific format. I selected the usual 1, 2, 3. Click OK, and the number of the number of pages will appear. Now all you have to do is add your text such as Page X of XXX, and change the look of the numbers with the usual text formatting tools available from the Home tab.
It now looks like this:
Design the look on any page number in your document and Word updates all the remaining automatically. Page numbers are the most common elements in a footer, but it can also hold any other information like the header. From the options in the Insert group, you can add the date and time, document info, pictures, and more to your header or footer.
Next, we’re heading into formatting the content.
The visual draw of your professional report comes together with the “beautification” you apply to the content. Formatting is also an essential step for a document that flows well. So, you must focus a lot of energy on picking the right font, paragraph space, and the colors.
Don’t worry. Even, the artistically challenged will find this part easy because Microsoft Word comes packaged with default themes and visual styles. Let’s start with the most basic element of a document.
5. Pick and Style the Right Font
Your choice of font in a professional Word reportHow to Style Fonts in Microsoft Word to Make Your Text Stand OutHow to Style Fonts in Microsoft Word to Make Your Text Stand OutA well formatted text can grab your reader's attention and help them flow through your document. We show you how to add that final touch in Microsoft Word.Read More not only determines how the text stands out but also how it is printed. You want both for maximum impact.
You can apply a typeface (i.e. the visual look of the font) to either an entire document or to specific parts of a document. All font choices are available from the Home tab. Go to Home > Font.
The default font in Microsoft Word 2016 is Calibri. Look beyond that as you have lots of others to choose from. If you choose Times New Roman, you may be considered lazy, if you choose Windings, well… I don’t think I need to explain that. So make sure you choose a font that is easy to read and suits the report.
Tip: Baskerville and Georgia are good alternatives to the over-used Times New Roman
Try different font pairing for the body text and Headings (and Subheadings). Several websites like FontJoy and TypeWolf will help you experiment with font pairings. You can download and use custom fonts too. But remember the thumb-rule — never use more than three different typefaces in a document.
For that extra bit of pizazz, try a drop cap to enhance your textHow to Use Drop Caps to Enhance Your Text in Microsoft WordHow to Use Drop Caps to Enhance Your Text in Microsoft WordA drop cap is a stylistic addition to any document. It demands attention. How do you create a drop cap in a Microsoft Word document? Let's go through the simple creative process.Read More.
6. Style the Paragraphs
If you want to have your lines double spaced, or single spaced, you need to change the format of the paragraphs. By changing the spacing, you can make a document easier to read or give the impression that it is longer and that you have put more work into it.
To change the paragraph for the whole document, it is best that you select each block of text; otherwise, if you are using headers in your report, they will change too. Another better option is if you customize the particular style you are using to format the paragraph.
To do this, go to Home> Styles. Right click on the style you want to change and select