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  • Background Readings REPORT WRITING

  • Revised edition, 2008

    Writing and Speaking Skills Program Helping Bank staff and managers develop the skill to communicate effectively

    HRSLO The World Bank Group

    Intranet: http://writingandspeaking

    Prepared by Dianne Snyder, Diane Ullius, Ellen Coughlin, and Roboid Covington. Cover by Paulina Chen.

  • Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be said can be said clearly.

    Ludwig Wittgenstein

    What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.

    Samuel Johnson

  • CONTENTS

    PREFACE ..................................................................................................................iii 1. PLANNING AND ORGANIZING: DIALOGUE WITH THE READER....................................1

    Planning the Report ................................................................................................................. 2 Outlining Ideas ......................................................................................................................... 4 Parts of a Formal Report.......................................................................................................... 7

    Front Matter......................................................................................................................... 7 Main Text ............................................................................................................................ 8 Back Matter ......................................................................................................................... 8

    2. CONNECTING WITH THE READER ..........................................................................9

    A Structure That Guides the Reader...................................................................................... 10 Putting the Bottom Line at the Top ................................................................................... 10 Giving Guideposts Along the Way .................................................................................... 11

    Language Background and Writing in English....................................................................... 15 Asian Discourse ................................................................................................................ 15 Romance Discourse.......................................................................................................... 16 Slavic Discourse................................................................................................................ 17 Semitic Discourse ............................................................................................................. 18 Implications for Writing in English ..................................................................................... 18

    3. DRAFTING ..........................................................................................................21

    Elements of Structure............................................................................................................. 22 Devices for Writing Coherent Paragraphs ............................................................................. 24

    A Single Point.................................................................................................................... 24 Clear, Logical Connections ............................................................................................... 26 Transitions Between Paragraphs...................................................................................... 27

    4. REVISING ...........................................................................................................29

    Pitfalls of Bank Writing ........................................................................................................... 30 Weak Verbs....................................................................................................................... 30 Hedge Words .................................................................................................................... 31 Elaboration ........................................................................................................................ 31 Jargon ............................................................................................................................... 33

    The Shift from Writing to Revising ......................................................................................... 34 What to Look for in Revising ............................................................................................. 34 How to Revise Sentences................................................................................................. 37

    i

  • ii

    5. GUIDELINES ON THE MECHANICS OF WRITING AND WORLD BANK STYLE .................38

    Capitalization.......................................................................................................................... 39 Institutional Names............................................................................................................ 39 Geographic Names ........................................................................................................... 40 Words That Are Always Capitalized.................................................................................. 40

    Grammar ................................................................................................................................ 41 Agreement of Subject and Verb........................................................................................ 41 Agreement of Pronouns and Their Antecedents............................................................... 43 Articles............................................................................................................................... 44 Gerund with Possessive.................................................................................................... 45 Nouns Used as Adjectives ................................................................................................ 46 Parallel Construction......................................................................................................... 46 Present Perfect Tense ...................................................................................................... 46 Subjunctive Mood.............................................................................................................. 47

    Numbers and Measurements................................................................................................. 48 General Guidelines ........................................................................................................... 48 Weights and Measurements ............................................................................................. 48

    Punctuation and Italics........................................................................................................... 50 Comma.............................................................................................................................. 50 Semicolon ......................................................................................................................... 52 Colon................................................................................................................................. 52 Period................................................................................................................................ 54 Ellipsis ............................................................................................................................... 54 Question Mark................................................................................................................... 54 Apostrophe........................................................................................................................ 55 Quotation Marks................................................................................................................ 56 Parentheses ...................................................................................................................... 56 Brackets ............................................................................................................................ 57 Hyphens and Dashes........................................................................................................ 57 Italics ................................................................................................................................. 58

    Spelling and Compounding.................................................................................................... 59 General Guidelines ........................................................................................................... 59 Compounds....................................................................................................................... 59

    Spelling Reference List .......................................................................................................... 61 Usage..................................................................................................................................... 62

    6. RESOURCES FOR WRITERS..................................................................................65

  • PREFACE

    These Background Readings, revised in 2008, were first prepared in 1998 as a supplement to Report Writing, a 20-hour course offered to professional staff at the World Bank/IFC/MIGA. This revised version is also intended to supplement the new distance-learning version of th

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