Books and reports

Nonfiction books and reports are common to all industries, workplaces and fields. They can cover any topic and be any length, varying from short, informal reports used within an organisation to more formal books and reports prepared for external distribution.

Reports tend to be written in response to an external stimulus – for example, a predetermined time (eg annual or quarterly reports) or event (eg a Royal Commission, a legal ruling, the conclusion of an experiment). Books, on the other hand, are more likely to be written to the author’s timeframe, as they develop themes and ideas that merit a long-form text.

Some reports, such as government annual reports, have a prescribed structure that you must follow. The typical parts of a book or report are discussed in this section. Note that the discussion of books specifically deals with nonfiction books. Novels and other creative writing products have many possible formats and structures, which are outside the scope of this manual.

As with any document, planning before you write, and thinking about your purpose and audience, will help you to find the best structure and approach.

If you are creating a related series of books or reports (eg on different aspects of the same topic or on different topics handled in the same way), it is a good idea to use a common structure and visual style, with the same ordering of information, standardised sections of text, the same level of detail, and consistent use of fonts and images. This makes it easier for you to write and edit the content, and easier for readers to navigate the information.

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