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Writing a background section in a board paper

By Mary Morel, August 2016 The background statement in a board paper is often seen as the easiest section of a paper to write because the information is factual and historical. But when you look more closely into what’s required in a background section, it’s not as easy as it seems. The main challenge is […]

‘Concise’ is often over-emphasised in board reporting

By Mary Morel | July 2016 Everyone wants to read concise board reports and papers, but lately I have noticed an over-emphasis on length as a criterion. For instance, I have heard about one board telling management to reduce its board pack by two-thirds, and another board setting a page limit of two pages for board and […]

Summaries in decision-making board papers

By Mary Morel | June 2016 Most board papers are short and some people argue that a summary is not necessary. I like a summary in a decision-making board paper because it lets me know what the paper is about and why the recommendation matters. (Most recommendations are at the beginning of board papers these days, […]

What does ‘write for your audience’ mean?

By Mary Morel | May 2016 A basic catchcry of business-writing articles and training is ‘write for your audience’. Yet what does this mean in practice? I don’t think this is as straightforward as it sounds and I am going to look at this question from my own experience of: Teaching people how to write […]

How to write recommendations in board papers

By Mary Morel | April 2016 There are two aspects to writing board paper recommendations: what you say and how you say it, i.e. styles. Content of board paper recommendations Most organisations have two types of papers – decision and noting (information). Some have discussion papers as well, and they are similar to a noting […]

Why I don’t like purpose statements in board papers

By Mary Morel | 16 November 2015 I am not a fan of purpose statements in board papers because they are unnecessary and cover information that is not strictly speaking a purpose. With a noting (information) paper, it is obvious the purpose of the paper is to inform. With a decision paper, the directors know […]

Writing in the third person in board papers

By Mary Morel | 27 October 2015 In formal business writing, such as board papers and business cases, most writing guidelines encourage writers to use the third person. The third person uses ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or ‘they’, but because business documents are impersonal, ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’ are seldom used. References to other people or […]

Writing standards for clear board communication

By Dana Skopal, PhD | 14 June 2015 As discussed previously by Mary Morel, Standards Australia has developed a standard for board reporting. These standards cover both reporting responsibilities and presenting information. Whether you are reporting or presenting, the task involves writing. The issue then becomes how can we provide staff with writing standards (or […]

Whole-of-organisation focus for board papers

By Mary Morel | 26 May 2015 Board papers must be written from a whole-of-organisation perspective. Too often writers write from the perspective of their own team or division, and fail to consult with other stakeholders within the organisation. Such papers do not present a united front for the organisation, and can, on occasion, cause […]

Best practice board reporting

By Mary Morel | 23 April 2015 Many Australian business people are not aware that Standards Australia has developed a standard for board reporting, HB 403–2004 Best Practice Board Reporting. This standard outlines board reporting responsibilities and provides guidelines on how to present information in board papers. It is available here. The standard looks at […]