How to Write a Business Report: A Step By Step Guide with Examples

georgie just finished writing a business report

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With so much experience under your belt, you already know a lot about business reporting.

So, we don’t want to waste your time pointing out the obvious because we know what you need.

Secrets. Tricks. Best practices.

The answer to how to write a mind-blowing business report that you don’t need to spend hours and days writing.

A business report that will immediately allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

A report that’ll help you learn more about your business and do more accurate forecasting and planning for the future.

We believe we have just that right here.

With this comprehensive guide, you’ll create effective sales, analytical, and informative business reports (and business dashboards ) that will help you improve your strategies, achieve your goals, and grow your business.

So, let’s dive in.

What Is a Business Report?

Importance of creating business reports, types of business reports, what should be included in a business report, how to write a business report: an 11-step guide.

  • Business Report Examples

profitwell-dashboard-template-databox-cta

Although there’s a variety of business reports that differ in many aspects, in short, a business report definition would be the following:

A business report is an informative document that contains important data such as facts, analyses, research findings, and statistics about a business with the goal to make this information accessible to people within a company.

Their main purpose is to facilitate the decision-making process related to the future of the business, as well as to maintain effective communication between people who create the reports and those they report to.

A good business report is concise and well-organized, looks professional, and displays the relevant data you can act on. The point is to reflect upon what you’ve achieved so far (typically, over the past month, quarter or year) and to use the data to create a new strategy or adjust the current one to reach even more business goals.

Business reports should be objective and based on the data. When stating the facts, people rely on numbers rather than giving descriptions. For instance, instead of saying “our conversion rate skyrocketed”, you would display the exact percentages that back up that claim.

Business reporting matters for several reasons, among which the most important ones are:

Recognizing Opportunities to Grow

Detecting issues and solving them quickly, evaluating a potential partner, having a paper trail, keeping things transparent for the stakeholders, setting new company goals.

In fact, over half of the companies that contributed to Databox’s state of business reporting research confirmed that regular monitoring and reporting brought them significant concrete benefits.

If you never look back at what you’ve achieved, you can’t figure out what you’ve done well and what you can leverage in the future for even better results.

When you analyze a specific aspect of your business over a specific time period and present the data you gathered in a report, you can detect an opportunity to grow more easily because you have all the information in one place and organized neatly.

Is it time to introduce new products or services? Is there a way to enhance your marketing strategy? Prepare a report. Can you optimize your finances? Write a financial business report . Whatever decision you need to make, it’s easier when you base it on a report.

Reports are essential for crisis management because they can introduce a sense of calmness into your team. Putting everything on paper makes it easier to encompass all the relevant information and when you know all the facts, you can make a more accurate and effective decision about what to do next.

Writing business reports regularly will also help you identify potential issues or risks and act timely to prevent damage and stop it from escalating. That’s why monthly reporting is better than doing it only once a year.

Having an insight into your finances , operations and other business aspects more regularly allows you to have better control over them and mitigate potential risks more effectively.

Different types of business reports may be accessible to the general public. And if they’re not, specific situations may require a company to send them over to the person requesting them. That may happen if you’re considering a partnership with another company. Before making the final decision, you should learn about their financial health as every partnership poses a certain risk for your finances and/or reputation. Will this decision be profitable?

Having an insight into a company’s business report helps you establish vital business relationships. And it goes the other way around – any potential partner can request that you pull a business report for them to see, so writing business reports can help you prove you’re a suitable business partner.

In business, and especially in large companies, it’s easy to misplace information when it’s communicated verbally. Having a written report about any aspect of your business doesn’t only prevent you from losing important data, but it also helps you keep records so you can return to them at any given moment and use them in the future.

That’s why it’s always good to have a paper trail of anything important you want to share with colleagues, managers, clients, or investors. Nowadays, of course, it doesn’t have to literally be a paper trail, since we keep the data in electronic form.

Writing business reports helps you keep things transparent for the stakeholders, which is the foundation of efficient communication between these two sides.

You typically need to report to different people – sometimes they’re your managers, sometimes they’re a client. But your company’s stakeholders will also require an insight into the performance of your business, and relying on reports will help you maintain favorable business relationships. A business report shows you clearly how your company is performing and there isn’t room for manipulation.

Once you set business goals and the KPIs that help you track your progress towards them, you should remember they’re not set in stone. From time to time, you’ll need to revisit your goals and critical metrics and determine whether they’re still relevant.

When you write a business report and go through it with your team members or managers, you have a chance to do just that and determine if you’re efficient in reaching your goals. Sometimes, new insights will come up while writing these reports and help you identify new objectives that may have emerged.

Depending on your goals and needs, you’ll be writing different types of business reports. Here are five basic types of business reports .

Informational Report

Analytical report, research report, explanatory report, progress report.

Informational reports provide you with strictly objective data without getting into the details, such as explaining why something happened or what the result may be – just pure facts.

An example of this type of business report is a statement where you describe a department within your company: the report contains the list of people working in this department, what their titles are, and what they’re responsible for.

Another example related to a company’s website could look like this Google Analytics website traffic engagement report . As we explained above, this report shows objective data without getting too much into the details, so in this case, just the most important website engagement metrics such as average session duration, bounce rate, sessions, sessions by channel, and so on. Overall, you can use this report to monitor your website traffic, see which keywords are most successful, or how many returning users you have, but without further, in-depth analysis.

Google Analytics Website Engagement Dashboard Template

Analytical reports help you understand the data you’ve collected and plan for the future based on these insights. You can’t make business decisions based on facts only, so analytical reports are crucial for the decision-making process.

This type of business report is commonly used for sales forecasting. For instance, if you write a report where you identify a drop or an increase in sales, you’ll want to find out why it happened. This HubSpot’s sales analytics report is a good example of what metrics should be included in such a report, like average revenue per new client or average time to close the deal. You can find more web analytics dashboard examples here.

HubSpot CRM – Sales Analytics Overview

From these business reports, you can find out if you will reach your goals by implementing your current strategy or if you need to make adjustments.

Research is critical when you’re about to introduce a change to your business. Whether it’s a new strategy or a new partner, you need an extensive report to have an overview of all important details. These reports usually analyze new target markets and competition, and contain a lot of statistical data.

While not the same, here is an example of an ecommerce dashboard that could help track each part of a campaign in detail, no matter whether you are launching a new product, testing a new strategy, and similar. Similar to a research report, it contains key data on your audience (target market), shows your top-selling products, conversion rate and more. If you are an online store owner who is using paid ads, you can rely on this report to monitor key online sales stats in line with Facebook Ads and Google Analytics. See more ecommerce dashboards here.

Shopify + Facebook Ads + Google Analytics (Online Sales overview) Dashboard Template

As you might guess from its name, you write the explanatory report when it’s necessary for you to explain a specific situation or a project you’ve done to your team members. It’s important to write this report in a way that everyone will be able to understand.

Explanatory reports include elements like research results, reasons and goals of the research, facts, methodology, and more. While not exactly an explanatory report, this example of a HubSpot marketing drilldown report is the closest thing to it, as it helps marketers drill into an individual landing page performance, and identify how good their best landing pages are at converting, or which ones have the best performance.

HubSpot Marketing Landing Page Drilldown

A progress report is actually an update for your manager or client – it informs them about where you stand at the moment and how things are going. It’s like a checkpoint on your way towards your goal.

These reports may be the least demanding to write since you don’t need to do comprehensive research before submitting them. You just need to sum up your progress up to the point when the report was requested. This business report may include your current results, the strategy you’re implementing, the obstacles you’ve come across, etc. If this is a marketing progress report you can use marketing report templates to provide a more comprehensive overview.

In many companies, progress reports are done on a weekly or even daily basis. Here is an example of a daily sales report from Databox. HubSpot users can rely on this sales rep drilldown business report to see how individual each sales rep is performing and measure performance against goals. Browse through all our KPI dashboards here.

HubSpot CRM (Sales Rep Drilldown) dashboard template

What does a great business report look like? If you’re not sure what sections your report should have, you’ll learn what to include in the following lines.

Business Report Formatting

Different types of reports require different lengths and structures, so your business report format may depend on what elements your report needs to have. For example, progress reports are typically pretty simple, while analytical or explanatory reports are a different story.

However, most reports will start with a title and a table of contents, so the person reading the report knows what to expect. Then, add a summary and move on to the introduction. After you’ve written the body and the conclusion, don’t forget to include suggestions based on your findings that will help your team create an actionable plan as you move forward.

After that, list the references you used while creating the report, and attach any additional documents or images that can help the person reading the report understand it better.

This outline may vary depending on what kind of report you’re writing. Short business reports may not need a table of contents, and informative reports won’t contain any analyses. Also, less formal reports don’t need to follow a strict structure in every situation.

Business Report Contents

When it comes to the contents of your report, keep in mind the person who’s going to read it and try to balance between including all the relevant information, but not overwhelming the reader with too many details.

  • The introduction to the report should state the reason why you’re writing it, and what its main goal is. Also, mention what methodology and reporting software you’ve used, if applicable.
  • The body of the report is where you’ll expose all your key findings, explain your methodology, share the important data and statistics, and present your results and conclusion.
  • The conclusion , similarly to the summary you’ll add at the beginning of the report, briefly singles out the most important points and findings of the report.

If you decide to include more sections like recommendations, this is where you’ll suggest the next steps your team or the company may want to take to improve the results or take advantage of them if they’re favorable.

PRO TIP: Are You Tracking the Right Metrics for Your SaaS Company?

As a SaaS business leader, there’s no shortage of metrics you could be monitoring, but the real question is, which metrics should you be paying most attention to? To monitor the health of your SaaS business, you want to identify any obstacles to growth and determine which elements of your growth strategy require improvements. To do that, you can track the following key metrics in a convenient dashboard with data from Profitwell:

  • Recurring Revenue. See the portion of your company’s revenue that is expected to grow month-over-month.
  • MRR overview. View the different contributions to and losses from MRR from different kinds of customer engagements.
  • Customer overview . View the total number of clients your company has at any given point in time and the gains and losses from different customer transactions.
  • Growth Overview . Summarize all of the different kinds of customer transactions and their impact on revenue growth.
  • Churn overview. Measure the number and percentage of customers or subscribers you lost during a given time period.

If you want to track these in ProfitWell, you can do it easily by building a plug-and-play dashboard that takes your customer data from ProfitWell and automatically visualizes the right metrics to allow you to monitor your SaaS revenue performance at a glance.

profitwell-dashboard-template-preview

You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.

To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Get the template 

Step 2: Connect your Profitwell account with Databox. 

Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.

Note : Other than text, make sure you include images, graphs, charts, and tables. These elements will make your report more readable and illustrate your points.

Whether you’re writing a specific type of business report for the first time or you simply want to improve the quality of your reports, make sure you follow this comprehensive guide to writing an effective business report.

  • Do Your Research
  • Create an Outline
  • Determine Formatting Guidelines
  • Think of an Engaging Title
  • Write the Introduction
  • Divide the Body of the Report into Sections
  • Choose Illustrations
  • Conclude Effectively
  • Gather Additional Documentation
  • Add a Summary
  • Proofread Your Work

Step 1: Do Your Research

A well-planned report is a job half done. That means you need to do research before you start writing: you need to know who you’re writing for and how much they know about the topic of your report. You need to explore the best business dashboard software and templates you can use for your report.

Also, if you believe you will need additional resources and documents to add in the appendix, you should do it during this phase of report writing.

Step 2: Create an Outline

Once you’ve gathered the resources, it’s time to plan the report. Before you start writing, create an outline that will help you stick to the right structure. A business report is complex writing in which you can get lost very easily if you don’t have a clear plan.

Moreover, the report shouldn’t be complicated to read, so sticking to a plan will allow you to keep it concise and clear, without straying from the topic.

Step 3: Determine Formatting Guidelines

Most companies have their in-house formatting that every official document has to follow. If you’re not sure if such rules exist in your company, it’s time you checked with your managers.

If there arent’ any guidelines regarding formatting, make sure you set your own rules to make the report look professional. Choose a simple and readable format and make sure it supports all the symbols you may need to use in the report. Set up proper headings, spacing, and all the other elements you may need in Word or Google Docs.

Pro tip: Google Docs may be easier to share with people who are supposed to read your business report.

Step 4: Think of an Engaging Title

Even if you’re writing a formal business report, the title should be clear and engaging. Reports are typically considered dull as they’re a part of official business documentation, but there’s no reason why you can’t make them interesting to read. Your title should suit the report topic and be in different font size so the reader can recognize it’s a title. Underneath the title, you should add the name of the author of the report.

Step 5: Write the Introduction

A good introductory paragraph for a business report should explain to the reader why you’ve written the report. Use the introduction to provide a bit of background on the report’s topic and mention the past results if there’s been a significant improvement since your last report.

Step 6: Divide the Body of the Report into Sections

As this will be the most comprehensive part of your report, make sure you separate the data into logical sections. Your report is supposed to tell a story about your business, and these sections (such as methodology, hypothesis, survey, findings, and more) will help the data look well-organized and easy to read.

Step 7: Choose Illustrations

Of course, each of these sections should be followed with charts, graphs, tables, or other illustrations that help you make a point. Survey results are typically best displayed in pie charts and graphs, and these enable the reader to visualize the data better. From the formatting point of view, breaking the long text sections with illustrations makes the report more readable.

Pro tip: Using centralized dashboard solutions like Databox can bring your reporting game to the next level. Sign up for a forever-free trial now to see how you can use Databox to track and visualize performance easier than ever before .

Step 8: Conclude Effectively

Finish your report with a to-the-point conclusion that will highlight all the main data from the report. Make sure it’s not too long, as it’s supposed to be a summary of the body of the report. In case you don’t want to add a specific section for recommendations, this is where you can include them, along with your assessments.

Step 9: Gather Additional Documentation

If you’ve determined what additional documents, images, surveys, or other attachments you may need for your report, now is the time to collect them. Request access to those you may not be able to get on time, so you have everything you need by the deadline. Copy the documents you can use in the original form, and scan the documents you need in electronic format.

Step 10: Add a Summary

The summary is usually at the top of the report, but it’s actually something you should write after your report is completed. Only then will you know exactly what your most relevant information and findings are, so you can include them in this brief paragraph that summarizes your report’s main points.

The summary should tell the reader about the objective of the report, the methodology used, and even mention some of the key findings and conclusions.

Step 11: Proofread Your Work

It may seem like common sense, but this final step of the process is often overlooked. Proofreading your work is how you make sure your report will look professional because errors can ruin the overall impression the reader will form about your work, no matter how great the report is.

Look for any spelling or grammatical mistakes you can fix, and if you’re not sure about specific expressions or terminology, use Google to double-check it. Make sure your writing is to-the-point and clear, especially if you’re writing for people who may not know the industry so well. Also, double-check the facts and numbers you’ve included in the report before you send it out or start your reporting meeting.

Business Report Examples (with Ready-to-Use Templates)

Here, we’re sharing a few business reporting examples that you can copy, along with ready-to-use and free-to-download templates. If you don’t know where to start and what to include in different types of business reports, these business report examples are a great way to get started or at least get some inspiration to create yours.

Activity Report Example

Annual report example, project status report example, financial report example, sales report example, marketing report example.

Note : Each of the business report templates shared below can be customized to fit your individual needs with our DIY Dashboard Designer . No coding or design skills are necessary.

For reporting on sales activity, HubSpot users can rely this streamlined sales activity report that includes key sales metrics, such as calls, meetings, or emails logged by owner. This way, you can easily track the number of calls, meetings, and emails for each sales rep and identify potential leaks in your sales funnel. Check all our sales team activity dashboards here. Or if you are looking for dashboards that track general sales performance, browse through all Databox sales dashboards here.

Activity Report Example

If you’re preparing for annual reporting, you will benefit from choosing this HubSpot annual performance report . It contains all the relevant metrics, such as email and landing page performance, new contacts, top blog posts by page views, and more. See all our performance dashboard templates here.

Annual Report Example

Project status reports can be very similar to progress reports. If you’re in need of one of those, here’s an example of a Project overview dashboard from Harvest that shows that can help you create simple, but well-organized report based on metrics that matter: hours tracked, billable hours, billable amount split by team members., and more. Check out more project management dashboard templates we offer here.

Project Status Report Example

Are you creating a financial report? You will find this QuickBooks + HubSpot integration a great choice for a financial performance dashboard that makes creating a report simple. This dashboard focuses on the essential financial report

ting metrics and answers all your revenue-related questions. See all Databox financial dashboards here.

Financial Report Example

If you’re tracking your sales team’s monthly performance, this sales report template will help you prepare an outstanding report. Check out all the vital productivity KPIs, track your progress towards your goals, and understand well how your current sales pipeline is performing. See all sales performance dashboards we have available here.

Sales Report Example

Marketing reports can be easily prepared by using this monthly marketing report template . With HubSpot’s reporting, you can determine where your website traffic is coming from, how your landing pages and specific blog posts are performing, and how successful your email campaigns are. Browse all Databox marketing dashboards or marketing report examples here.

Marketing Report Example

Create a Professional Business Report in No Time with Databox

Does creating a business report still sound like a daunting task? It doesn’t have to be with Databox.

In times when we’re all trying to save our time and energy for things that matter rather than scattering valuable resources on tedious, repetitive tasks, it’s critical to optimize your business process. And we want to help you do just that.

Using a business reporting dashboard enables you to track data from all the different tools you’re using – but in one place. With Databox, you can monitor and report on performance in a single dashboard that is optimized for all your favorite devices and you can create streamlined and beautiful dashboards even if you are not that tech-savvy. (no coding or design skills are required).

Automating business reporting has never been easier. And with Databox, you can do exactly that in just a few clicks. Sign up now and get your first 3 business dashboards for free.

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6.4: Formal Reports

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What you’ll learn to do: Create a formal report

Image of a electronic tablet displaying a finance report.

A formal report in business is closer to the kinds of reports you may have encountered in an academic setting. A formal business report is generally longer than an informal report and contains many specific sections and labels. These sections and labels may come from company policy and practice or be prescribed by the outside organization the report is being sent to.

While you’re more likely to encounter informal reports in your day-to-day work, formal reports are used for more complex issues and in more complex circumstances. Formal reports contain detailed information and research. They can be used to address a wide variety of topics, ranging from larger internal problems or proposals to an external client.

Learning Outcomess

  • Define types of formal reports, including proposals
  • Discuss different methods of sharing formal reports
  • Describe various sections that may be used in the front of a report
  • Describe various sections that may be used in the body of a report
  • Describe various sections that may be used in the back matter of a report
  • Determine how to organize an formal report based on audience analysis
  • Discuss how to write a formal report

Formal reports delve much deeper into a topic than an informal report. The label “formal” may intimidate some writers, but the formal report is an extension of business writing. You’ll use the same skills in all of your business communications—from the short, limited data email, to the informal report, to the formal report. While you may not need to write a formal report in your career, you will most likely see one and need to understand its components in order to effectively make decisions.

Types of Formal Reports

There are many different kinds of formal reports that you may encounter throughout your career. Here are a few of the more common kinds:

  • Research reports gather and explain data; these reports are informational. Module 4: Research discusses research methods to obtain the data you’ll use in these reports.
  • Proposals may be internal to a company in addressing a business situation, or they may come from a solicited or unsolicited sales situation. Formal proposals will include details of the proposed solutions and costs.
  • Feasibility reports are a specific type of analytical report. When an entrepreneur or business manager has a new idea, it is prudent to fully explore the idea before making major investments. Some think of this report as a precursor to developing a full business plan. While a business plan may take many months to develop, a feasibility report can be developed in much less time, and it still provides excellent direction for decision makers.
  • Business plans are typically informational reports about what a new or existing company plans to do over the next period of time. A business plan may take on a bit more of an analytical tone rather than a strictly informational tone when it is shared with potential investors. In some cases, the business plan may be presented with a request for funds; in those cases, the writing is gently more persuasive.
  • Other complex recommendations may also come in the form of a formal report. These recommendations result from a business problem that an individual or team has been asked to solve.

Practice Question

Madison works at the main office of a regional grocery store. Madison’s District Manager found a Request for Proposal (RFP) on the local school district website asking potential suppliers to provide a bid for all the district’s food service needs in the next school year. The two-page document listed many items that must be provided in the requested proposals, such as nutritional listings, ratio of hot to cold meals, requirement to provide a sample contract, costs for service, separating fixed from variable costs, and so forth. The report that Madison will help create is a ________.

  • feasibility report
  • business plan

Sharing Formal Reports

Formal reports may have internal or external audiences. Formal reports will be significantly larger than informal reports, and they often include a complex number of references and appendices (in the Back Matter area of the report).

The format of a report aligns to the recipient’s needs. Formal reports may be delivered in a variety of formats: documents, letters, digital postings to a website, and so forth. The reader’s comprehension is of utmost importance in selecting the delivery method. No user wants to receive an email and then tie up the office printer with a 40-page report. Avoid letting the delivery method hold back the meaning of the report.

Memos are less likely to be used for formal reports, since memos are typically used for short messages, and formal reports are generally lengthy. Letters are for external use, and again perhaps less likely to be used for a document of this type. However, a letter or an email may be used to introduce an accompanying report. Web postings are generally external in nature, but companies may have private networks for internal use. Depending upon the organization, this may be a suitable transmittal method. Remember, just as with informal reports, your delivery method should not change the content or structure of your formal report.

Abby finished a territory analysis report for her senior manager, Jose. The report turned out to be 35 pages, with additional individual store reports in the back that were almost as long. Jose is wrapping up a two-state personnel review and will be in the office briefly in the morning before rushing out to the airport for a cross-country flight back to the home office. Abby is considering how to share her completed report. The best way for Abby to share this report is to ________.

  • run to the local quick print shop to create a color, spiral bound document

attach the file to an email to Jose

  • save money by printing the report in office and attach the pages together with two strong binder (alligator) clips

Sections of Formal Reports

Depending upon the situation and the institution you’re working for or writing to, some or all of the following sections may be required in a specific formal report. Some guides to formal reports indicate that specific sections are recommended for each type of formal report. However, smart writers will be sensitive to the organization’s requirements or expectations and the needs of the information, then use that knowledge to determine the contents of their report.

The next few pages describe a large number of these section types so you, as a writer, may pick and choose what is appropriate to each situation. It is important to the report’s impact and the writer’s professional image to understand the purpose of each of these sections.

In a formal report there are three major sections.

  • The front part includes sections that come prior to the report itself to establish various items such as authority of the report and intended audience.
  • The body of the report has many sections of key information and possible analysis. It is the meat of the report.
  • The back matter contains sections of material that support the body.

Take a look at Figure 1 to see an example of the many potential sections in a sales proposal. Since this example models a response to an RFP (request for proposal), these sections were like required by the customer requesting the bid. The white, shaded, white pages related to the broad parts of a formal report. They are illustrative since the author determines specific sections needed based on report purpose company policy, and audience.

Image of order sections of a proposal. There are thirteen rectangles representing pages found in a report. The pages laid in an accordion fashion, one on top of each other. The pages the following text starting with the first page: "Copy of RFP (optional), letter of transmittal, abstract or summary, title page, table of connects, list of figures, introduction, background, problem, purpose, schedule, staffing, budget, authorization, appendix."

Figure 1. Sections of a Sales Proposal

Front Sections of a Report

In formal reports, you may encounter introductory sections before the actual report itself. These “front sections” are important for establishing context and structure of the report for the reader. In some reports, such as sales situations or proposals, the entire report becomes part of a contract. These front sections aid in that function.

Front sections may include the following:

  • Transmittal letter
  • Cover page and Title Page

Table of Contents

Executive summary.

You will (or not) use these sections based on the context of your report, the information your audience needs, and your company’s policies.

Transmittal Letter

A transmittal letter is sent to the company or business leader who requested the report. This letter may be sent separately from the report. This letter can be printed (especially in situations where the report itself is a paper copy), or it can be sent as an email.

This letter describes the need for the report and the date of report completion. The letter includes the background of the project, a reference to the problem analysis , and outlines the procedure used to determine the recommendations presented. It is most frequently used with reports created by one company and submitted to another, such as those associated with a sales situation. This letter can be used in both informational and analytical reports.

This letter should be formatted as a standard business letter (as discussed in Module 2: Writing in Business). It is frequently signed by an officer of the sending company to emphasize the formality of the document and potentially establish legal formality. Pay careful attention to company policy and legal advice. It’s also important to note that some companies prefer this same information in another format within the report.

Here is a sample transmittal letter, than can be adjusted to the situation.

June 25, 2015

Dr. David McMurrey, Chairman Energy Experts of Austin 2000 W 29th Street Austin, TX 78705

Dear Dr. McMurrey:

Attached is the report you requested, entitled Energy-Efficient Guide: Employing Energy-Efficient Building Strategies in a Residential Home .

This report is an analysis of a recent study conducted in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the effectiveness of employing energy-efficient building strategies to minimize energy consumption and costs in a residential home. Using software technologies, the home was modeled to create two scenarios: an energy-efficient home and a standard home. This report details how the study found the energy-efficient home to be both cost efficient and effective at decreasing energy consumption. Such advances might prove to b the catalyst that the housing market needs to spur builders into a new era of home construction.

Thorson James, our solar engineer, carefully double-checked all the technical details in the report. Cherie Sorenson, our technical editor, was of great help in putting the final report together.

I hope this report meets your needs, generated future studies, and educates the public about the environmentally friendly options available in home building today. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] .

Sincerely yours,

Gwen L Miller, Vice-President Environmental Building Associates, Inc.

Encl. Energy-Efficient Guide: Employing Energy-Efficient Building Strategies in a Residential Home

Cover Page and or Title Page

Almost all formal reports have a Cover or Title Page, perhaps both. These two pages are used in nearly identical ways, yet some report types or organizations require both with a slight modification to the page’s purpose.

A cover page is a very simple, precise, brief way to introduce your report to the reader. This should contain:

  • A specific title in large font
  • Company name
  • Name of the author(s)
  • Date of the report
  • Relevant picture

The use of a relevant picture or two can help reinforce the subject of the report. One goal of the cover page is to be informative and scalable because once it is filed, it will need to be easy to pick out of a stack of other reports. A second goal is to make the report stand out. If the report cover looks bleak and dull, the reader will start reading with a negative outlook. Think of the cover page of a report like the outfit you would wear to an interview. The cover page is the first thing that is seen: it will be the foundation for first impressions, for better or worse.

One easy way to make the report stand out is to use a theme for the report that your audience can connect to. For example, if a report is written to McDonald’s, the cover page will use yellows and reds, perhaps with the golden arches as a picture. With a carefully chosen color scheme and images, you can help the reader believe that he or she is the most important aspect of the report. As always, when you include graphics of any kind in a document you are sending out, be sure they don’t dramatically increase the file size, which can make the document hard to download, and that they transmit easily among devices and platforms.

The title page is an opportunity to provide more specific, detailed information about the document and its authors to its intended audience. It will be very similar to your front cover and it repeats the information on the cover, but adds more important details. This may include a report number, date, title, the names and addresses of authors, specific contract information, the name and address of the supervisor, and the name and address of the organization that supported the report.

Title pages may be formally laid out according to MLA or APA formatting. However, most business and non-research institutions are relatively relaxed on the format. If you are creating a sales document that may become part of a contract, your company (or your potential customer) will list their particular requirements for the title page. With the power of word processing software, companies have started to use images on these pages as well as on covers. The best advice is usually to keep it simple and professional.These pages may be used with either informational or analytical reports.

Take a look at these examples:

Image of a sample cover page on the left and title page on the right. The cover page is green with the image of a energy efficient lightbulb with the text below "Energy-efficient guide Employing energy- efficient building strategies in residential home." The title page on the left is a white page with the text "Energy-efficient guide Employing energy- efficient building strategies in residential home." and lists the contact information of the company who created the guide.

Figure 1. Sample Cover and Title Pages for Energy-Efficient Guide: Employing Energy-Efficient Building Strategies in a Residential Home

Table of Contents, Tables of Exhibits, Tables of Illustrations

Formal reports are frequently lengthy and contain a Table of Contents to assist readers. There may also be tables of exhibits or illustrations if needed. The use of these sections in larger reports allows readers to quickly access the area of their interest: these sections list important headings or figures in the report alongside their corresponding pages. These sections may be used with either Informational or Analytical reports.

Typically this is one of the last sections of the document to be created, since it relies on the body of the report to be generated. This may be used in either informational or analytical reports.

You’re familiar with tables of contents (TOC) but may never have stopped to look at their design. The TOC shows readers what topics are covered in the report, how those topics are discussed (the subtopics), and on which page numbers those sections and subsections start.

In creating a TOC, you have a number of design decisions:

  • Levels of headings to include. In longer reports, consider only including the top two levels of headings. This keeps the TOC from becoming long and unwieldy. The TOC should provide an at-a-glance way of finding information in the report quickly.
  • Indentation, spacing, and capitalization. Notice in Figure 2 that items in each of the three levels of headings are aligned with each other and page numbers are right-aligned with each other. Notice also the capitalization: Main chapters or sections are all caps; first-level headings use initial caps on each main word; lower-level sections use initial caps on the first word only.
  • Vertical spacing. Notice that the first-level sections have extra space above and below, which increases readability.

One final note: Make sure the words in the TOC are the same as they are in the text. As you write and revise, you might change some of the headings—don’t forget to change the TOC accordingly.

An example table of contents. There are four levels of headings include, each level has an increasing indent from the last.

Figure 2. Example table of contents. Click to access a PDF of this example.

If you have used specially formatted headings when creating the body of the document, then these tables can be quickly generated by the word processing software. For example, if you use Microsoft Word’s styles for headings, the reference toolbar will offer a choice of formats and generate the TOC automatically.

Tables of Exhibits or Illustrations

There may be a few different situations in which you should use additional tables of exhibits or illustrations; for example, these tables may be useful to include if your figures or tables are referred to repeatedly throughout your text. Additionally, as a rule of thumb, you should include a table of exhibits when your report is approximately 15 pages or more. This also allows your readers to flip between exhibits more easily in order to compare them.

An executive summary is just as the name says: it summarizes all the materials that follow in the report. This section is different from an introduction as it summarizes the entire report, rather than simply introducing it or laying out the structure for the reader. A good way to approach the executive summary is to write it as if the executive or decision maker will only read this section, even though that’s unlikely to be the case.This section is found in longer reports and is less likely to be found in a shorter report. It can also be used in both informational and analytical reports.

Executive summaries should be written after the entire report is completed. This allows the summary to be both comprehensive and well structured. Remember, the investigation and details of the report must be complete and validated before the summary can be written.

This section is offered in paragraph format, with a paragraph summarizing each section in the report; thus, the executive summary is presented in the same order as the report. The executive summary rarely includes images or graphics; however, a table might be offered at the end of this section if the recommendation or options can be easily summarized into a table. In sales or recommendation situations, the executive summary takes on greater importance. It must clearly demonstrate that the analyses in the report are comprehensive and thorough, and it must clearly lead the reader to the author’s desired conclusion.

Most importantly, all this must be done with brevity. Most executive summaries are at most two to three pages, but length varies in proportion to the complexity and length of the report.

what about abstracts?

An abstract is very similar to an executive summary, although it is far more likely to be found in an informational report than an analytical report. An abstract may help readers determine if the remainder of the document is relevant to their needs. Abstracts tend to be one page or less. Additionally, abstracts are typically used in more scholarly writing, such as business research projects. Samples and and advice on abstracts may be found at Purdue OWL.

Tobias is writing a feasibility report for his senior manager, Alex. Tobias estimates the report will turn out to be about 40 pages long, based on his knowledge of a similar report completed five years ago. He knows this work will be classified as a formal report. He looks back over the prior report and his school notes to consider what sections he might need to include in the report he is generating. Which of the following might Tobias use in his formal report as part of the “front section”?

  • recommendation
  • introduction

executive summary

Body Sections of a Report

The body of a report is what comes to mind when most people think of a report; it’s the primary content. In this page, we will discuss several sections that are frequently used in formal reports:

Introduction

  • Purpose (or problem statement)
  • Research (or methods)
  • Recommendation (or solution)
  • Overview of alternative options
  • Qualification
  • Implementations
  • Methods of operation

This list may look intimidating, so it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t a Table of Contents for every formal report. Remember, as the writer, you should use what best suits the material’s and organization’s requirements. There may be additional sections needed in unique cases.

An introduction sets up the structure of a report. Essentially, the introduction tells the reader what is to come and in what order, and it reminds the reader of the key criteria that instigated the report’s creation. This section is key to the reader following and retaining key points of the report.

Introductions are used in both informational and analytical reports. In an informational report, this helps segment the data that follows. In an analytical report, the introduction helps the reader come to the conclusion the author expects. An introduction is used in all informal reports as well. In an informal report, there may or may not be a separate header with this label, but an introduction must always be present.

Depending upon readers’ expected reception of the content, the introduction may foreshadow the conclusion. With receptive audiences, the outcome is clear in the introduction. With less receptive audiences, it is important to present all the facts and research prior to declaring a conclusion; thus, for less respective audiences, it may be better to foreshadow the conclusion than to fully declare it. This allows the reader to end up at the same conclusion as the author as details develop.

The introduction may also include the problem statement or purpose of the report. However, in longer reports, these may end up either in the background or as their own sections.

The background section of a report explains the circumstances that led to the report’s creation. In some situations, this section may be labeled as criteria or constraints , or the topic may be briefly addressed in the transmittal letter or introduction. This section can appear in both informational and analytical reports.

The background provides a baseline of the current situation and any potential constrictions such as budget, time, human resources, etc. This section explains why the investigation or work was completed. It may introduce how the information is thorough, even if 100 percent certainty is not possible.

Purpose or Problem Statement

As mentioned, the purpose or problem statement section may be part of the background, or it can stand separately, depending upon the complexity of the report. The purpose or problem statement should be worded like this example:

The purpose of this report is to address [the problem or question that the requester needs addressed]. This report will accomplish this by investigating [whatever you researched or developed for the report]k.

While the example shows the proper phrasing for an analytical report, it could be reworded to fit an informational report: for example, “details from three solutions are listed.”

Research or Methods

The research section (also sometimes called methods ) is where authors establish their credibility as they show how their perspective is supported by outside experts.This section provides background on where data used in the report was found: it is not a section where data is listed.

By telling your audience how you came to know what you have found out, you are demonstrating to them that your results are trustworthy and that they truly hold significance. With strong methods for finding out your facts, your readers will feel comfortable and confident in making the changes your report recommends. Your data will appear later in the evaluation, so that the data is in the same place as the reader is learning about its meaning. Additionally, the data can be presented in full in the appendix .

Completing and sharing research comes with a set of legal issues. Pay special attention Module 4: Research and follow the guidelines and rules you learn there. You’ll always need to provide credit, or citation, for the information you gather from others. Lack of appropriate citation or attribution can cause legal and credibility problems.

Recommendation or Solution

This section may stand on its own, or it may have several subsections depending upon the complexity of the report. Additionally, depending upon the receptivity of the audience to your solution, this section may come earlier or later in the report. In some reports the recommendation is used in lieu of the conclusion . This section is found only in analytical reports.

In this section, you will report your recommendations, beginning with your first choice. Explain why you prioritized each choice by elaborating on different facets the solution’s feasibility: economical, structural, and operational. Emphasize the solution’s benefits. Remember you can suggest that you do not recommend a particular alternative solution. However, you need to explain why you do not recommend the solution, according to the economical, structural, and operational feasibility.

Overview of Alternative Options

In this section, you must underline the key features of each possible option. Make sure they are easy to understand and presented in a friendly layout. Keep in mind that the goal is to allow your audience to make the best decision. This section is typically used in informational reports, where no recommendation is made.

This should be the bulk of your report; you must evaluate the options using the criteria you created. Add graphs, charts, etc. to show that you have studied your options, and have come up with statistics that back up your reasons why your alternative beats the competition. If your audience is likely to be resistant to your recommendation, the evaluation should appear before you make the recommendation. This section is found only in analytical reports.

This section should state the end results of your research and detail how you got there: how you evaluated the alternatives and, from there, you would decided which alternative best fit your organization.

This section explains the benefits of the solution. There is little reason why your proposal should be accepted if there are not meaningful benefits. Thus, be sure to show that your solution will result in substantial benefits for the organization, company, etc. Some may think to omit this section when the report was requested; however, it is always helpful to have comprehensive listing of why something is being proposed and to document all the items the solution addresses.

This section is found in analytical reports, especially in proposals. In informational reports, this section may provide a detailed “how-to” not associated with some type of comparison.

Qualifications

This section may stand alone or be part of the benefits section. A qualifications section is a good place to explain the talent and experience of yourself and your team members. Depending on your readers, this section may be small or large. As with all business documents, you need to be honest when you write your qualifications.

This section may stand alone or be part of the benefits section. In some cases, the resumes of the proposed team for the project are requested or provided. In those situations, this section is found as part of the back matter . A project’s success depends on its management team, and readers are impressed if you can describe your project management structure in your proposal. By identifying each person on your team and explaining what their tasks and responsibilities are, you can coordinate your work efficiently. It is very helpful for each person to know what they will be doing beforehand so there won’t be many problems concerning leadership and time management further into the project.

Implementation

This section details when, why, and how the solution will be used for the first time. The implementation period is usually a trial period to see if the solution is feasible as planned. Thus, you will pick a time that does not impact the normal operation of existing programs, patterns of operation, etc. In addition, you will describe the location of implementation, who will be involved, costs of implementation, what is expected to happen, the date and time of implementation, the duration of implementation, etc. You should also explain why you chose this time for implementing the solution. State that during this time you will note what works and what needs to be changed.

This section is found in analytical reports, especially in proposals. In informational reports, this may provide a detailed “how-to” not associated with some type of comparison.

A schedule section may be found separately if the product or project is complex. In other instances, it is combined with the implementation section. In some situations, the schedule is part of the back matter and exists more as a list or table of dates and accomplishments.

Schedules help provide readers with three things:

  • Schedules give readers a deadline, so they know when to expect a final result.
  • Schedules can be critiqued by readers to make sure they are feasible.
  • Schedules are a good way to keep track of how a project is proceeding.

In addition to project deadlines, schedules should also include due dates for drafts, resources, and other information that is needed to assist you with your project goal.

Methods of Operation

This section describes how the solution will fit into and be used as a functional part of the day-to-day operation of the company, business, etc. Detail the date you expect to launch the solution into the operation of the company, the place from where the solution will operate, how it will operate, and who will be involved (identify their responsibilities, duties, and any titles, certifications, degrees, etc.).

This section tells how much the solution will cost in dollar amounts. This section is generally presented after all the explanation of implementation, benefits, etc. That way the reader is fully appreciative of what the costs cover. It is expected that numbers presented are accurate to the penny, unless otherwise specified by whatever margin of error is appropriate to the situation. In informal reports and some formal reports, this section is part of the body (or evaluation) detail. For some formal reports, there is extensive line by line detail of parts, services, and/or supplies. When this is the case, the costs section may be part of the appendices and will only be referenced from the body.

Numbers in costs are generally presented using tables, tabs, or spreadsheet inserts to align decimal points direct above one and other. Text aligns left and numbers align right as in the following table. If all numbers end with zero cents as in $24.00, omit the decimal and following zeros. Ensure any column of information has a heading. Most software offers attractive templates to set apart information and data. The best advice is to use the simplest formatting. These table should work to aid the reader in understanding and retention, rather distracting the reader with colors and shapes.

clipboard_ec112da96bb4c2f0ad4f7f60bb4034159.png

This section is found in analytical reports, especially in proposals. In informational reports, this will be used when the purpose of the reports was to research costs of some item.

The conclusion , as the header says, finishes the body of the report: it provides a summary of the major ideas of the report. While not as long as an executive summary , it may have a similar feel in order to provide a comprehensive reminder of the key components of either an analytical or informational report. The closing of a report should never introduce a fact or idea not presented earlier in the report.

In sales or persuasive reports, include in your conclusion how you’re going to go implement your ideas for the company and how it will enrich the company; explain why the company should choose your course of action. Compare statistics and data and help the readers understand the logical choice and the course of action that would aid in selecting one option over the other. Refer back to your expertise on the subject matter and help them realize that your idea is the choice they are looking for. Based on your experiences, they will most likely take your side if you present the argument efficiently.

Hayley is writing a proposal for her senior manager, KJ. She estimates the report will turn out to be about 25 pages long. She knows this work will be classified as a formal report. Which of the following might Hayley use in her formal report as part of the body of the report?

  • tables of exhibits

research or method section

Back Matter of a Report

It may sound like a catch-all to say that all that is left goes in the back matter (also called appendices). To do so appears to devalue the significant importance of material found in this section; however, the back matter can provide critical details that could not easily fit in the body of the report. This section can be used in both informational and analytical reports.

In the back matter, there is little prose provided to explain or connect the different items, as the purpose of each item was explained in the body of the report when each item was first referenced. Thus, the back matter is simply the location of these more detailed items that are critical to support the report.

There is no “standard” list of items that should be included in the back matter of a report. If the report is a response to an RFI or RFP, there may be extensive costs listed. In other cases, this section may include sample contracts, which can become finalized should the bid be accepted. There may also be extensive data sets provided, which cover far more detail than the body of the report allows. As mentioned in our discussion of the body of the report, you may also find individuals’ resumes.

Simply put, this section can contain anything needed to further support your report; however, resist the temptation to overdo it and include only items that are truly relevant.

Roman is writing a territory analysis report for his senior manager, Elly. He estimates the report will turn out to be about 35 pages long, based on his knowledge of the report completed five years ago. He knows this work will be classified as a formal report. He looks back over the prior report to consider what sections he might need to include in the report he is generating. Which of the following might Roman use in his formal report as part of the back matter?

  • alternative evaluation

store by store data

Organization of Formal Reports

Formal reports may be informational or analytical. The logic and general structure is the same as with informal reports discussed earlier in this chapter. What changes is the depth of each part of the formal report.

Informational Reports

Informational formal reports typically follow the same broad structure introduced with the informal report: introduction or background, support or reasons, and summary. However, in formal reports each of these primary sections likely have their own subsections (as discussed in the previous pages).

Remember, despite the length of a formal report, its purpose is to present a synthesis of main ideas from the research, not simply to compile large quantities of data. If more detailed data is needed, it can be included in the back matter.

Analytical Reports

Analytical formal reports typically follow the same broad structure introduced with the informal report: introduction or background, support or reasons, recommendations, and conclusion or summary. However, in formal reports each of these primary sections likely have their own subsections (as discussed in the previous pages).

The order of the sections in analytical reports varies by likely reaction of the reader. Remember, if your audience is expected to react neutrally or positively to your message, then your conclusion or recommendation should be offered near the beginning of the report. If the audience is expected to react negatively to your message, then the conclusion or recommendation is offered towards the end of the report.

Madison’s manager has asked her to prepare a report on whether it would be profitable for her company to respond to a request for proposal to provide all the local school district’s food services needs in the next school year. Since Madison’s boss requested the proposal, she thinks it is likely he will agree with her conclusions. Broadly speaking, what is the best way to organize her report?

Her recommendation should come near the beginning of the report.

  • She should not include a recommendation, since it is likely the reader will come to the same conclusion as her.
  • Her recommendation should come near the end of the report.

How to Write a Formal Report

Writing formal reports, like informal report, and that of any other writing task follows the same three steps. First is the planning. Second is the writing. Third is the revising.

Image of three circles representing the planning, writing, and revising stages of the writing process. The first circle on the left is blue with white text that says "Plan purpose preliminary research outline/ organize". The middle circle is purple with white text that says "write writing phrasing/wording layout and pages". The last circle on the right is green and in white text says "Revise grammar proofreading verify purpose".

Planning Your Formal Report

In all business writing, the first step is to check and see whether there is a prescribed structure for the document that is about to be created. If so, follow that. Many formal reports have specific formats that must be followed exactly. For example, some sales proposal requests and responses become part of a contract; therefore, you should ensure documents such as these have a legal review both in the planning of the document and as a part of the final review step.

Other steps in preparation of a formal report follow in the same way as those for an informal report. In an informal report, however, it is less likely there will be multiple writers. With a formal report, there may be many contributors. If so, it is important to meet as a group to divide the work, talk about style, and plan how the final document will be assembled and edited to ensure a common voice or tone throughout. You may wish to consider some of the strategies discussed in Module 12: Collaboration in and Across Teams.

Next you’ll complete any data gathering needed. A formal report likely requires extensive planning and data gathering: some proposals may require weeks or months in researching and preparing. For example, think about a proposal for the next three years of new store locations or construction. The author (likely a team of authors) will need primary and secondary research, which takes a great deal of time to gather and analyze.

You will use knowledge of that data to create the report’s outline. In constructing that outline, again consider the depth of understanding of the reader and the likelihood the reader’s views align with that of the report’s determination.

With group writing, there may be several coordination meetings at each stage of the document’s creation.

Writing Your Formal Report

Writing the formal report is a much easier task once you have created a detailed outline in the planning process. This outline is what helps the writing move along, as you already know exactly what is to be provided where and when. When writing a formal report as a team, a carefully constructed outline facilitates assigning sections of the report to different authors from the team. The writer or writers can then focus on paragraph structure, wording, and phrasing using the lessons found in Module 2: Writing in Business.

With a formal report, it is extremely rare to see the casual phrasing that might be found in a short message or informal report. Formal reports rarely use personal pronouns, contractions, or passive verb structures. However, this does not mean the language should be stilted or use excessively long words. You’ll continue to use the same clarity of wording as in all business communications.

Formatting Your Report

Formal reports implement many of the formatting skills you learned earlier. Usually formal reports are single spaced with double spaces between paragraphs. Usually paragraphs are not indented, but this may vary from organization to organization. The right hand side of paragraphs are left ragged.

Section headings are always provided in a formal report. It is acceptable to use labels to match the section’s purpose (e.g., Introduction, Findings, Research Methods). The headings may also use terms directly related to the report’s purpose such as “Fruit Spoilage Problem,” “Facts about Fruit Spoilage,” “Suggestions to Improve Fruit Freshness.” You may also have specific subheadings within more general section titles.

Formal reports of all types use page numbers.The pages may be numbered in a format such as 1–50, or they may be numbered by the section, such as Methods 1–Methods 50. The material in the front part of a report is generally numbered in lowercase roman numerals (i–ix).

Revising Your Formal Report

because of the length and possible subject complexity of formal reports, the final review takes more time than you might expect and involves more people. As mentioned in the start of this section, some reports may require additional legal review.

The most effective way to ensure a professional document is to have a team of individuals independently read the document, marking changes, corrections, and questions as they go. This team then meets as a group with one individual charged with collecting all corrections. This person ensures continuity across the entire document. If such a formal process cannot be completed, then you should work to ensure there are at least two reviewers who review work they themselves did not write.

As mentioned before, the final revision must consider both grammar and style issues as well as revisiting the primary purpose of the document.

Guadalupe is the manager for meats and seafoods for a rapidly-expanding grocery chain, Valuetown. Valuetown's expansion has happened mostly by buying up individually-owned stores or small chains in the region. One of the issues Guadalupe has faced is that the display and storage units in these stores are not in great shape, and often meats can't be displayed. Valuetown is also spending a lot on repairs. Guadalupe has done an analysis of what the old refrigeration units are costing in terms of repairs and lost revenue. Her manager told her to write a report to present to the Valuetown board requesting new units. How should she proceed?

  • She should ask for time to give a presentation at the next board meeting and then take questions. She's more persuasive in person than on paper.

She should write a formal report with her conclusions at the front, a summary of her analysis in the middle, and back matter that includes the raw data on costs and lost revenue as well as estimated costs to replace the units. This report should be thoroughly edited and proofread so it is both stylistically perfect and in line with the needs of her audience.

  • She should write an informal report that briefly summarizes what she wants to do, gives highlights of her analysis, and then leaves most of the data in the back matter. Her goal should be to get this report out as quickly as possible, even if it has a few errors.

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Business Communication  - How to Write a Powerful Business Report

Business communication  -, how to write a powerful business report, business communication how to write a powerful business report.

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Business Communication: How to Write a Powerful Business Report

Lesson 8: how to write a powerful business report.

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How to write a powerful business report

georgie just finished writing a business report

When a company needs to make an informed decision, it can create a business report to guide its leaders. Business reports use facts and research to study data, analyze performance, and provide recommendations on a company's future.

Watch the video below to learn how to write and format a business report.

The basics of a business report

Business reports are always formal , objective , and heavily researched . Every fact must be clear and verifiable, regardless of whether the report focuses on a single situation or examines the overall performance of an entire company.

Because objectivity is crucial in a business report, avoid subjective descriptions that tell the reader how to feel. For instance, if sales were down last quarter, don’t say “Sales were terrible last quarter,” but rather let the sales data speak for itself. There should also be no personal pronouns, such as “I think we should invest more capital.” A business report should remain impersonal and framed from the company’s perspective.

The structure of a business report

Although the size of a report can range from one page to 100, structure is always important because it allows readers to navigate the document easily. While this structure can vary due to report length or company standards, we’ve listed a common, reliable structure below:

  • Front matter : List your name, job title, contact information, and the date of submission. You can also create a title for the report.
  • Background : State the background of the topic you’ll be addressing, along with the purpose of the report itself.
  • Key findings : Provide facts , data , and key findings that are relevant to the purpose stated in the background. Be clear and specific, especially because the entire report depends on the information in this section.
  • Conclusion : Summarize and interpret the key findings, identify issues found within the data, and answer questions raised by the purpose.
  • Recommendations : Recommend solutions to any problems mentioned in the conclusion, and summarize how these solutions would work. Although you’re providing your own opinion in this section, avoid using personal pronouns and keep everything framed through the company’s perspective.
  • References : List the sources for all the data you've cited throughout the report. This allows people to see where you got your information and investigate these same sources.

Some companies may also require an executive summary after the front matter section, which is a complete summary that includes the report’s background, key findings, and recommendations. This section lets people learn the highlights quickly without having to read the entire document. The size of an executive summary can range from a paragraph to multiple pages, depending on the length of the report.

As mentioned in Business Writing Essentials , revision is key to producing an effective document. Review your writing to keep it focused and free of proofreading errors, and ensure your factual information is correct and presented objectively. We also recommend you get feedback from a colleague before submitting your work because they can spot errors you missed or find new opportunities for analysis or discussion.

Once you’ve revised your content, think about the report’s appearance . Consider turning your front matter section into a cover page to add some visual polish. You can also create a table of contents if the report is lengthy. If you’re printing it out, use quality paper and a folder or binder to hold the report together. To diversify the presentation of your data, try using bulleted lists, graphics, and charts.

Example of a business report

To demonstrate the principles of this lesson, we’ve created a brief business report for you to review.

Let's start by looking at the first page of this two-page report.

georgie just finished writing a business report

The layout of the front matter is simple and effective, while the background sets the stage in a quick, specific manner. The key findings provide the main takeaways that warrant further investigation, along with a chart to add emphasis and visual variety.

Now let's look at the following page.

georgie just finished writing a business report

The conclusion features a little of the writer's opinion on the key findings, although the writing is still centered around the company's perspective. The recommendations are clear and supported by the data, while the references are thorough.

While business reports may seem intimidating, you have the ability to create a thorough, informative document through practice and careful research. Collect the facts and present them in an organized, objective manner, and you’ll help your business make informed decisions.

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  • Writing Tips

How to Structure a Business Report

How to Structure a Business Report

  • 5-minute read
  • 14th March 2019

The content of a business report will depend on what you are writing about. Even the writing style may depend on who you are writing for (although clear, concise and formal is usually best). However, there is a general structure that most business reports follow. In this post, then, we’ll look at how to structure a business report for maximum clarity and professionalism.

1. Title Page

Every business report should feature a title page . The title itself should clearly set out what the report is about. Typically, you should also include your name and the date of the report.

Most business reports begin with a summary of its key points. Try to include:

  • A brief description of what the report is about
  • How the report was completed (e.g., data collection methods)
  • The main findings from the research
  • Key conclusions and recommendations

A paragraph or two should suffice for this in shorter business reports. However, for longer or more complex reports, you may want to include a full executive summary .

3. Table of Contents

Short business reports may not need a table of contents, especially if they include a summary. But longer reports should set out the title of each section and the structure of the report. Make sure the headings here match those used in the main text. You may also want to number the sections.

4. Introduction

The introduction is the first part of the report proper. Use it to set out the brief you received when you were asked to compile the report. This will frame the rest of the report by providing:

  • Background information (e.g., business history or market information)
  • The purpose of the report (i.e., what you set out to achieve)
  • Its scope (i.e., what the report will cover and what it will ignore)

These are known as the “terms of reference” for the business report.

5. Methods and Findings

If you are conducting original research, include a section about your methods. This may be as simple as setting out the sources you are using and why you chose them. But it could also include how you have collected and analyzed the data used to draw your conclusions.

After this, you will need to explain your findings. This section will present the results of your research clearly and concisely, making sure to cover all the main points set out in the brief.

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One tip here is to break the findings down into subsections, using headings to guide the reader through your data. Using charts and illustrations , meanwhile, can help get information across visually, but make sure to label them clearly so the reader knows how they relate to the text.

6. Conclusions and Recommendations

The last main section of your report will cover conclusions and recommendations. The conclusion section should summarize what you have learned from the report. If you have been asked to do so, you should also recommend potential courses of action based on your conclusions.

If you are not sure what to suggest here, think back to the objectives set out in your brief.

7. References

If you have used any third-party sources while writing your report, list them in a bibliography after the main report. This could include other business documents, academic articles, or even news reports. The key is to show what you have based your findings and conclusions upon.

8. Appendices (If Applicable)

Finally, you may have gathered extra documentation during your research, such as interview transcripts, marketing material, or financial data. Including this in the main report would make it too long and unfocused, but you can add it to an appendix (or multiple appendices) at the end of the document. It will then be available should your reader need it.

Summary: How to Structure a Business Report

If you are writing a business report, aim to structure it as follows:

  • Title Page – Include a clear, informative title, your name, and the date.
  • Summary – A brief summary of what the report is about, the data collection methods used, the findings of the report, and any recommendations you want to make.
  • Table of Contents – For longer reports, include a table of contents.
  • Introduction –Set out the brief you were given for the report.
  • Methods and Findings – A description of any methods of data collection and analysis used while composing the report, as well as your findings.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations – Any conclusions reached while writing the report, plus recommendations for what to do next (if required).
  • References – Sources used in your report listed in a bibliography.
  • Appendices – If you have supporting material (e.g., interview transcripts, raw data), add it to an appendix at the end of the document.

Don’t forget, too, that a business report should be clear, concise, and formal. And if you would like help making sure that your business writing is easy to read and error free, just let us know .

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8.1 Organizing and Formatting Business Reports

Before we begin to investigate the different types and aspect of developing a business report, let’s take a quick overview of the business report.

Organization

Much like correspondence, you may choose between the direct and indirect methods to structure your reports. The direct method is used when you have a receptive audience; whereas, the indirect method is used when you must persuade your audience. Whichever you decide to use will depend on the context, audience, and your purpose. Pay attention to these essential considerations when thinking of your stakeholders. Stakeholders may include the person(s) the report is about, whom it is for, who has an interest in the matter, and the organization overall. Ask yourself who the key decision makers are, who the experts will be, and how your words and images may be interpreted.

Reports vary by size, format, and function. You need to be flexible and adjust your report to the needs of the audience and to your purpose as there are several types of reports, including, for example, proposals, recommendations, problem-solving, and progress. Reports are typically organized around six key elements:

  • Who the report is about and/or prepared for
  • What was done, what problems were addressed, and the results, including conclusions and/or recommendations
  • Where the subject is situated
  • When the situation occurred
  • Why the report was written (function), including under what authority, for what reason, or by whose request
  • How the subject operated, functioned, or was used

When you write, your goal is not only to complete an assignment but also to write for a specific purpose—perhaps to inform, to explain, to persuade, or a combination of these purposes. Your purpose for writing should always be in the back of your mind, because it will help you decide which pieces of information belong together and how you will order them. In other words, choose the order that will most effectively fit your purpose and support your main point.

Table 8.1.1: Order and Purpose  shows the connection between order and purpose.

While there is no universal way for a report to be developed, conventions relating to the organization of the detail has evolved over time and is recognized in all business contexts, whether you are creating a direct or indirect document.  See Table 8.1.2 for an overview of three basic document structures. The functions of each section of the document is described below in Table 8.1.3.

Table 8.1.2 Basic Report Structures

Knowledge Check

The Outline

When you write, you need to organize your ideas in an order that makes sense. Order refers to your choice of what to present first, second, third, and so on in your writing. The order you pick closely relates to your purpose for writing that particular assignment. You may want to group your supporting ideas effectively to convince readers that your point of view on an issue is well reasoned and worthy of belief. In longer reports, you may organize different sections in different ways so that your purpose stands out clearly and all parts of the report work together to consistently develop your main point

Before writing any report, it is important to map out your ideas in an outline. An outline is a written plan that serves as a skeleton for the paragraphs and document sections you write. Later, when you draft paragraphs in the next stage of the writing process, you will add support to create “flesh” and “muscle” for your report.  The outline is an essential tool in discovering the overall progression of ideas and planning your research and visual aids.  The video, Creating an Outline (2014) describes the outline making process.

When creating outlines, writers generally go through three stages: a scratch outline , an informal or topic outline , and a formal topic or sentence outline: 

  • Scratch outline: The scratch outline is generated by taking information from your free-writing process and organizing it into a structure that is easy for you to understand and follow
  • Informal outline:  An informal outline goes a step further and adds topic sentences, a purpose statement, and some preliminary information you have found through research.
  • Formal outline: A formal outline is a detailed guide that shows how all your supporting ideas relate to each other. It helps you distinguish between ideas that are of equal importance and ones that are of lesser importance.

There are two types of formal outlines: the topic outline and the sentence outline . You format both types of formal outlines in the same way.

  • Place your introduction and purpose statement at the beginning, under Roman numeral I.
  • Use Roman numerals (II, III, IV, V, etc.) to identify main points that develop the purpose statement.
  • Use capital letters (A, B, C, D, etc.) to divide your main points into parts.
  • Use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) if you need to subdivide any As, Bs, or Cs into smaller parts.
  • End with the final Roman numeral expressing your idea for your conclusion.

Here is what the skeleton of a traditional formal outline looks like. The indention helps clarify how the ideas are related.

Introduction → Purpose statement

Main point 1 → becomes the topic sentence of body paragraph 1

Main point 2 → becomes the topic sentence of section 2 [same use of subpoints as with Main point 1]

  • Supporting detail

Main point 3 → becomes the topic sentence of section 3[same use of subpoints as with Main points 1 & 2]

Constructing Informal or Topic Outlines

An informal topic outline is the same as a sentence outline except you use words or phrases instead of complete sentences. Words and phrases keep the outline short and easier to comprehend. All the headings, however, must be written in parallel structure.

Step 1:  Create a purpose statement for your report

To plan your business report, you will begin by writing a draft purpose statement.  A purpose statement is a concise presentation of the key idea you will develop in your report. It is the focal point for the development of ideas in your report.  Write the purpose statement at the top of your outline.  You can revise this later as your research and writing evolves.

The rest of your outline will include the main topics and sub-points you will develop in each paragraph or section of the report.

Step 2: Identify the main ideas that relate to your purpose statement

Based on the reading and research you have already done, list the main topics that you plan to discuss in your report.  Consider carefully the most logical order, and how each point supports your purpose statement. These topics will become main ideas that will be developed.

Step 3: Identify the supporting points and evidence for each topic

Each topic  will be supported by supporting points and evidence that you have compiled from other sources. Each piece of information from another source must be cited, whether you have quoted directly, paraphrased, or summarized the information.

Step 4: Create your outline

Outlines are usually created using a structure that clearly indicates topics and supporting points.  In the example below, main ideas are numbered, while the supporting ideas are indented one level and labelled with letters.  Each level of supporting detail is indented further.

Here is the informal topic outline that Mariah constructed for the report she is developing and that has been partially adapted for this text. Her purpose is to inform, and her audience is a general audience of her fellow college students. Notice how Mariah begins with her purpose statement. She then arranges her main points and supporting details in outline form using short phrases in parallel grammatical structure.

  • Purpose statement: This report offers an overview of the available choices in digital technologies along with their specifications.
  • Electronic downloads
  • Storage in memory for hundreds of books
  • E-book readers from booksellers
  • E-book readers from electronics and computer companies
  • Incompatible features from one brand to the next
  • Borrowing and sharing e-books
  • Compact digital cameras
  • Single lens reflex cameras, or SLRs
  • Cameras that combine the best features of both
  • The confusing “megapixel wars”
  • The zoom lens battle
  • 1080p vs. 768p
  • Plasma screens vs. LCDs
  • Home media centres
  • How to choose wisely

Outlines at Work

Word processing programs generally have an automatic numbering feature that can be used to prepare outlines. This feature automatically sets indents and lets you use the tab key to arrange information just as you would in an outline. Although in business this style might be acceptable, in college or university your instructor might have different requirements. Teach yourself how to customize the levels of outline numbering in your word processing program to fit your writing context.

Business documents are typically created using conventional formats that are recognized in professional contexts. For example, letters have a familiar look because of the standard components that are used to format such documents. These formats serve to signal the level of formality and the purpose of the documents. They also help to create a degree of standardization in the documentation that circulates within and outside of organizations. Formats also inform readers on how to read the documents. When you create a document in the workplace, it is expected that you will use formats and styles customarily used within the organization.

The chapter entitled Correspondence Formats includes information on netiquette, texting, and the formatting of email, memos, and letters. The next section of this text discuss the different types of business reports and their typical usage and contents. In this chapter, we will discuss their various formats—that is, how they are prepared to conform to workplace conventions. Included in our overview are:

  • Short reports
  • Long reports
  • Slide reports

Infographics

Short reports.

Informal reports, also known as short reports, are routine documents of two to 10 pages or so in length that focus on one specific topic–such as a recommendation, brief proposal, or progress. Such reports can be formatted either as memos or email reports for internal purposes. They can also be formatted as letter reports when conveyed outside the organization. An email report consists of a report that is composed inside the email message box. Both memo and letter reports are usually attached to transmittal email messages for rapid electronic delivery.  The video, Guidelines for Writing Short Business Reports (2019), will help with the strategies of writing short reports.

georgie just finished writing a business report

In addition, the informal report can be informational or analytical in nature.  The informational report contains non-sensitive, routine information, often presented in a prescribed format such as a fill-in-the-blank form.  For this reason, the sections of an informational report include the introduction, findings, and conclusion.  In contrast, the short analytical report seeks to answer questions about specific problems with the aim of solving those problems.  How can we use social media more effectively? Should we close or open a new plant? How can customer service be improved? Therefore, the short analytical report not only includes an introduction, findings, and conclusion, but also recommendations.

Table 8.1.3  Informational and Analytical Short Report Sections

georgie just finished writing a business report

Informal Report Types and Functions

The video above provides a general overview of the short report.  In your professional life, you will find that there are many different types of short reports to respond to the many different activities, duties, and responsibilities in business organizations.  Table 8.1.4 below provides an overview of numerous types of short reports and their functions.

Table 8.1.4 Types and Function of Informal Reports (Smith, n.d.)

georgie just finished writing a business report

You will find more detailed information about writing proposals, progress and recommendation reports in the next chapters. Each of these reports can be written as short or long reports. You can view examples of several types of short reports, including conference, progress, summary, and recommendation reports, by visiting Venecia Williams’ Chapter 12: Report Writing Situations in  The Fundamentals of Business Communication. 

Formal Reports

Formal reports, also known as long reports, are documents that consist of about five or more pages in length. These reports not only offer a detailed discussion of research findings but are also used to make complex decisions within business contexts. Examples of these reports include audit, proposal, recommendation, problem-solving, feasibility, and compliance reports.  Such documents can be circulated inside or outside an organization, with the transmittal document being formatted as a memo or letter to signal the document’s internal or external destination.  The following video, Writing Long Reports (2019), provides and comprehensive overview of the long report.

Since formal reports are lengthy documents, they are accompanied by additional components consisting of the front and back matter that serve to aid the reader in understanding the document and locating information. The components of a formal report are listed below in Table 8.1.4 . You will notice that the report format consists of three sections: the front matter, with the cover page, table of contents, and executive summary; the report, with the introduction, background, details, and conclusion/recommendations; and the back matter, consisting of the references and the appendix/appendices.

For information on how to create and paginate the front and back matter and how to format the contents to achieve optimum readability, please refer to A Guide to Writing Formal Business Reports (Potter, 2021).

Table 8.1.4 Components of a Formal Report (partially adapted from Cruthers, 2020)

Knowledge check

Slide Reports

Slide reports are visual documents created using PowerPoint or other slide deck software and are a genre of slide documents (or slidedocs). Nancy Duarte, a leader in presentation skills education and author of Slidedocs (2016), coined the term after noticing how PowerPoint was being used to create documents other than presentation slide decks. In business, slide documents have been used for the following types of documents: annual reports, guides, instructions, tutorials, and report previews or summaries (Potter, 2020).  In the video below, Nancy Duarte provides some tips on designing slide decks.

Slide reports are full reports meant to be read and not presented. As such, these documents include a title page, table of contents and list of tables and figures, a glossary (if needed), section or chapter guides, a list of references, and appendices (if required). While they offer full-text development of ideas, they bridge genres by resembling presentations in the ample use of visual content to amplify ideas, set context and atmosphere, and support and clarify ideas.  These are typically visually engaging documents, with content developed in “bite-sized” segments for quick reading on the go. See the example in Figure 8.1.1. , which illustrates various page design options as suggested by Duarte (2016).

georgie just finished writing a business report

Figure 8.1.1 Page design samples for slide reports (Duarte, 2016).

Characteristics of Slide Report Design

  • Headings, subheadings
  • Enhanced appearance through the use of color and font styles
  • Generous use of purposeful visual aids and visual information
  • Full paragraph development using short paragraphs
  • Information chunking into short sections
  • One idea per slide (recommended)
  • Parallel listing for items in a series
  • Pull quotes to highlight key points
  • Section guides for longer reports
  • Section overviews set below headings

See Figure 8.1.2 for an example of a slide report page. Unlike a slide presentation, this sample page contains a considerable amount of text–which indicates that the report is not meant for presenting, but for reading. Notice how a large amount of text has been rendered readable through the use of a column format using short paragraphs. Notice also how a meaningful chart is integrated using colour that aligns with the slide design element. In addition, note how the page guide is included at the bottom of the slide; it helps the reader become quickly oriented as to the topic under discussion.

georgie just finished writing a business report

Figure 8.1.2 Sample page from a slide report by Brian Solis (2015).

To view another example of a slide report created for an annual report, see the Payments Canada 2020 Annual Report (Payments Canada, 2021).

Infographics are reports that look like posters. They are created with digital templates or slide deck software to report information using visual narratives or stories. Infographics combine visual elements like icons, graphs, images, and/or charts, along with concise text, to promote an idea or to convey information in an engaging way. Software, such as PowerPoint, Adobe Spark, or Canva can be used to create infographics.

If you are seeking one specific type of format for infographics, you will be disappointed. Here, you can let your creative side flourish as you customize backgrounds, fonts, and formats to suit your subject and purpose. Some software, like Canva, offers free and premium ready-made templates that you can adapt to your own content. The key is to have done your research, mapped or sketched out your ideas, and planned the visuals you will be using to support them. Once you have done this, go into the software and design your document using a variety of background, font, and chart options.

When creating an infographic choose a template that aligns with your content. For example, if you are showing data related to geographic areas, choose a map template; if you are making a comparison, choose a two-column format.

Below are links to three examples of infographics. Note the sparse use of text, which offers only key information, and relevant images to highlight key ideas.

Infographic example with data and map: Direct Marketing in Canada: Agriculture (Statistics Canada 2017).

Map infographic example: An Overview of Canada’s Forest Sector (Statistics Canada, 2018).

Text-based infographic example: From Email To Bots: The Future of Customer Communication (D’Adamo, 2017).

Seneca College offers many resources for learning about infographics. You might want to consider completing the Seneca Sandbox’s Creating Infographics tutorial or signing up for a webinar to learn more about how to create effective infographics.

A Checklist for Effective Reports

Here is a checklist for ensuring that a report fulfills its goals:

  • Report considers the audience’s needs
  • Form follows function of report
  • Format reflects institutional norms and expectations
  • Information is accurate, complete, and documented
  • Information is easy to read
  • Terms are clearly defined
  • Figures, tables, and art support written content and so are purposeful
  • Figures, tables, and art are clear and correctly labelled
  • Figures, tables, and art are easily understood without text support
  • Words are easy to read (font, arrangement, organization)
  • Results are clear and concise
  • Recommendations are reasonable and well-supported
  • Report represents your best effort
  • Report speaks for itself without your clarification or explanation

Bovee, C., Thill, J., & Scribner, J. (2016). Business communication essentials  (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: Pearson Canada Inc. Retrieved from http://www.pearsoncanada.ca/highered/product-showcase/new-solutions-for-core-foundations-from-pearson-canada/business-communication-essentials-fourth-canadian-edition-4e

Canva. [Sample Infographic Templates]. (n.d.).  https://www.canva.com/

Cruthers, A. (2020). Organizing reports. Business writing for everyone. https://kpu.pressbooks.pub/businesswriting/chapter/organizing-reports/

D’Adamo. A. (2017, October 11). Infographic: From email to bots: the future of customer communication. Stella Rising. https://www.stellarising.com/blog/infographic-from-email-to-bots-digital-marketing-trends-in-2017-wmi

Duarte, N. (2016). Slidedocs. https://www.duarte.com/slidedocs/

GreggLearning. (2019). Guidelines to writing short business reports [Video]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW-1aan4nFs

Guffey, M., Loewry, D., Rhodes, K., Rogin, P. (2016). Business communication: Process and product (5th ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson Education. Retrieved from http://www.cengage.com/cgi-wadsworth/course_products_wp.pl?fid=M20b&product_isbn_issn=9780176531393&template=NELSON

Horkof, T.  (2021). Outlining. Writing for success: 1st H5P Edition. CC 4.0. OER. BCcampus.   https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccessh5p/chapter/outlining/

Kwantlen Polytechnic University Learning Centres.  (2018). Creating an Outline. University 101.  https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/studystrategizesucceed/chapter/create-an-outline/

Lumen (n.d.). Informal reports . Business communications skills for managers . Retrieved January 12, 2020 from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wmopen-businesscommunicationmgrs/chapter/informal-reports/

Meyer, C. (2017). Communicating for results (4th ed.). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from https://oup-arc.com/access/meyer-4e-student-resources#tag_case-studies

Potable water use in Canada. (2019, June 11). Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2019022-eng.htm

Payments Canada. (2021). 2020 Annual report. Annual reports . https://www.payments.ca/about-us/annual-reports

Potter, R.L. (2020). Slide reports. Robin L. Potter: Artwork and Writing. robinlpotter.com/writing

Potter, R. L. (n.d., 2017, 2021). A guide to writing formal business reports: Content, style, format. Original document by University of Victoria (n.d.). Engineering work term report guide: A guide to content, style and format requirements for University of Victoria engineering students writing co-op work term reports. (Updated by Suzan Last, October, 2017 and adapted by Robin L. Potter (2021). OER.

Seneca Libraries. (n.d.). Library & information technician: Create websites and infographics. Seneca College. https://library.senecacollege.ca/lit/websites_infographics

Seneca Libraries. (n.d.). Writing and Communicating Technical Information: Home. Seneca College. https://library.senecacollege.ca/technical

Seneca Sandbox. (n.d.). Creating infographics. Seneca College. https://sites.google.com/view/creating-infographics/creating-infographics

Smith, J., Bartsiokas, T., & Hylton, T(n.d. ) Report Type and Function: Informal Report. Communication at work. https://kpu.pressbooks.pub/communicationsatwork/chapter/report-type-and-function-informal-report/

Solis, B. (2015, March 26). The connected consumer and the new decision-making cycle. SlideShare. https://www.slideshare.net/briansolis/the-connected-consumer-and-the-new-decisionmaking-cycle-46336230

Stanford Graduate School of Business. (2014). Nancy Duarte: How to create better visual presentations [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so9EJoQJc-0

Statistics Canada. (2018, May 8). An Overview of Canada’s Forest Sector. Infographic. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2018008-eng.htm

Statistics Canada. (2017). Direct Marketing in Canada: Agriculture. Infographic. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2017015-eng.htm

Williams, V. (XX). Chapter 12: Report Writing Situations. In  The Fundamentals of Business Writing. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/businesswritingessentials/chapter/chapter-14-routine-report-writing-situations/

Communication Essentials for Business Copyright © 2019 by Suzan Last (Original Author) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to Write a Great Business Report

Alice Musyoka

Alice Musyoka

How to Write a Business Report

You’ve been postponing writing that business report for weeks, but it can no longer be postponed. So, there you are, seated at your desk, wondering where to begin. Finding the right words feels like getting DNA from a rock—it’s just not possible.

It is, if you know where to start.

Business is all about paperwork, and reports help keep all the information organized. They document your business’ progress and offer a way to compare project details, time periods, or check your company’s history of growth.

While you may have an above-average memory, or simply rely on the business’ profits to gauge your company’s progress, the data you capture in reports can serve many important purposes.

Reports can help you to create marketing plans or a budget for the upcoming year. They can also help you to know which services and products are doing well, and which markets you have overlooked. As your business grows, you can refer to the data you’ve captured in reports to see what needs improving or eliminating.

Here’s how you can stop postponing that important report and write it.

Turn Off the Internet

Clear your desk and switch off all gadgets and notifications, use a mind mapping tool, organize your ideas for coherence, define the report’s purpose, choose the type of report you’re writing, start writing better business reports.

One of the biggest challenges for any person writing anything—especially these days when there are so many distractions—is the lure of the internet. The internet has revolutionized our world by making information readily available, but it can be a major hindrance when it comes to getting work done.

Good writing requires focus .

Yes, it can be very enjoyable to check your email, play music in the background, or just browse the internet. But that enjoyment comes at a cost: writing your report. So, it is up to you to make a choice: do you want to write or do you want the distractions?

We love the internet, we need it, but we can write without it. If you must do some research for your report, do it before you start writing then turn off the internet. When the internet is off, you can focus on writing your report. It's only temporary, but it can make a big difference. Another way to get off the internet is to go somewhere where there is no Wi-Fi and write your report on a laptop.

IdeasforWritingaBusinessReport

You may not know it, but visual clutter can be a subconscious distraction. If you’re writing a difficult report, get rid of everything on your desk. You can get a glass of water to keep you hydrated and maybe a pen and a paper if needed.

Instead of spending a lot of time sorting through papers, collect them in a bundle and put them away. You can put them in a drawer and sort through them later. After clearing your desk, switch off all gadgets and notifications.

You don’t need to talk on the phone when writing a report. You also don’t need to get notified the moment you receive an email. If you get a lot of emails, you’ll spend the whole day responding to them. You can always check emails later. Writing that report is important, so give it all your attention.

It is also important that you identify your distractions and acknowledge them. The next time you’re writing a report, note down what draws your attention. It could be tech-related distractions like Facebook and Twitter or environment-related distractions like noise, uncomfortable furniture, or an uncomfortable temperature.

Once you become aware of what gets between you and writing reports, you can come up with a way to eliminate it.

Mind mapping is an exercise that involves writing down a main idea or theme. You then draw lines which branch out into new words, tasks, or ideas related to the first idea. It's simple and you can easily mind map on a piece of paper.

However, digitalizing the process makes it more convenient and flexible. With a digital mind mapping tool, you aren't limited by the size of your paper and you can easily structure your ideas with little effort.

Mind mapping is a versatile technique that works for brainstorming in any field. When choosing a mind mapping tool, ensure it has the following features:

  • An unlimited canvas: if the canvas isn't big enough, it can cut your creativity short because you'll run out of room
  • Collaboration features: a cloud-based mind map should make it easy for different people to collaborate on the canvas
  • File attachment: when writing a business report, text may not be enough to convey your ideas. The mind mapping software should allow you to attach images, links, and other files to your canvas
  • Saving and exporting features: when you are able to save your mind map, you can refer to it at a future date, share it, or export it

BusinessReportWritingTips

Your business report needs to present a logical progression of thought so people can have an easy time reading it and easily grasp all the important details. When you organize your ideas, you can quickly complete your report.

For example, you can create an outline for your report with the following sections:

  • An executive summary
  • A table of contents
  • An introduction
  • The conclusion
  • The recommendations
  • The findings
  • The references

It is also important to note that the format of a report is a major part of its presentation. Your company probably has a preferred formatting style for different types of reports. Be sure to stick to those styles. They can help in organising the flow and structure of your ideas.

If you want to write a great report, the first thing you should do is define its purpose. This will help you to avoid spending a lot of time rewriting it later on. You also won’t include content that lacks direction or purpose.

Here are some reasons why people write business reports:

  • To create an audit trail
  • To track business development over time
  • To support purchasing decisions
  • To help a company align its strategies with the key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • To enhance marketing efforts
  • To solve an existing business problem

To get the ball rolling, use the strategies of investigative writing. Answer these 6 questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Are you recording information passed on by the quality assurance team about a certain project? Why is the topic of your report crucial? If you are addressing a problem, how do you plan to solve it? How do you want those who read the report to respond? What is the call to action?

Once you come up with the answers to all the six basic investigation questions, you can move on to the next step.

Understand who your audience is, and your purpose for writing the report will be evident. Also try to summarize the most important points: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats. Recommend solutions based on the data you present.

The people who read the report should understand it and be able to access additional information if they need it.

WritingaBusinessReport

Reports are divided into many categories – it all depends on their functionality and the information they contain. They may contain figures, numbers, or written information. Since important business decisions are based on reports, think carefully when choosing the type of report to write.

These are the most common types of reports:

  • Informational reports : these don’t contain opinions, suggestions, or conclusions, they just provide data, facts, and feedback
  • Analytical reports : these offer information, analysis, and recommendations. They can help organizations to address problems
  • Research reports : these are written by analysts or strategists and usually have actionable recommendations
  • Proposal reports : these usually propose ideas or approaches to solving business problems
  • Periodic reports : these are created on scheduled dates and summarize the events that occured since the last periodic reports were written
  • Functional reports : these include financial reports, marketing reports, accounting reports, and other reports that get their designation from their function.

Reports are also classified according to their nature:

  • Formal reports : these are official reports containing research and detailed information required to make business decisions
  • Informal reports : these are impromptu and generally brief. They can be delivered in memo or email format
  • Vertical reports: these reports move downward or upward the organizational hierarchy
  • Lateral reports : these are meant for departments of the same organizational level—like finance and production departments

A business report captures information that assists you and other stakeholders in decision-making. Some reports provide solutions and help solve business problems while others record past information that can be used in future business planning.

Some people consider reports uninteresting documents which take a lot of time and effort to prepare. The truth is that they are a vital part of business. Your ability to write business reports can determine whether your business enjoys accelerated growth or not.

Get rid of distractions, organize your ideas, and writing business reports won’t seem so hard.

Want to learn more more great business writing hacks? Download this free book now:

Business Writing Hacks

Business Writing Hacks for Flawless Communication

Writing is an essential element of nearly every profession today. whether you are drafting a proposal for a major prospect or collaborating by email, strong communications help colleagues and clients understand your ideas. errors and awkward writing can make you lose credibility., download this guide to learn the techniques professional writers use to write clearly and persuasively..

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How to Write a Business Report

A business report is a collection of data and analyses that helps make relevant information easily accessible to a company. There are many different types of business reports, but this guide will show you the basic outline.

Before You Begin:

  • Think about your audience and their expectations, and plan your report accordingly. For example, are they expecting a formal or informal report? Do they have an understanding of the vocabulary/terms used? Do they require more background information? Do they need to be heavily persuaded?
  • What is the purpose of the report? Make sure this is clear.
  • Gather and organize your supporting information/data/visuals.
  • Focus on the facts.
  • Make sure to be clear and concise, so the report is easy for everyone to read and understand.
  • Use a professional, standard font in a readable size.

Components of a Business Report

  • Table of Contents: Depending on the length of the report, you might want to consider including a table of contents. This will make finding specific information easier for readers.
  • Tip: Even though this is the first section, consider writing this section after you have finished the report. This will help you determine which points are the most important to address.
  • Introduction: This section outlines what you will be going over in your report. It includes the main points, chosen report structure, and, most importantly, the objective of your report.
  • Conclusion: In the conclusion, be sure to briefly summarize all of the main points in the order they were presented in the report.
  • Recommendations: This section is where you provide your recommendations or suggestions based on the findings you noted in earlier sections. Indicate the potential benefits for the company to applying your suggestions.
  • References: Be sure to cite all sources used in the report in this section.
  • Appendices: In the Appendix, you can add relevant documents, surveys, graphs, etc. that you referenced in the report.

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6 Tips to Write Irresistible Business Reports in English

Business reports have more in common with cakes than you might think.

If they both look professionally made (written) and have great ingredients (content), it’s hard to say no.

Carefully-made cakes and business reports can be a joy to consume.

And whether you need to write this business report for your job or as part of a language exam, it’s a fantastic opportunity to impress.

By paying attention to both the words in your report and the presentation (how it looks), you can  prove that you are a good writer to your boss or to the examiner grading your paper.

So we are going to help you write an irresistible business report by providing six simple guidelines.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

6 Tips to Write Irresistible Business Reports in English

1. understand what reports are for.

Business reports aren’t the same as sending an email or writing a formal letter . What are they for? A good business report describes a present or past situation in an objective way. Objective  means that the report states facts, not an opinion.

It is called a “report” because it “reports on” something. Pay attention—sometimes you may be asked to give your own opinions and recommendations. However, you should do this in just one section of the report. Remember, a report is not an essay. It is not about what you think, it is about an objective situation which you need to present clearly.

Whoever the reader is, they probably want to focus on the facts, not on your interpretation of the facts. If the reader is your boss, this is a good chance for you to impress with your level of objective analysis. If the reader is the examiner grading your paper, your goal is to prove that you have the language skills to pass the test.

To keep the purpose of the report in mind, make a plan before you start writing. If you don’t have the time to write a full draft, try to focus on the main ideas you need to include.

In an exam, you are given a task and you must make sure you include information about all the sections of the task. In real life, you also need to follow the instructions of the person having you write the report.

2. Keep the Tone Neutral

Since the reader is probably somebody higher up, so you should try to use a neutral tone, maybe even a formal one. Here are two language tricks you can use to help achieve a formal tone.

Passive voice

Use the passive voice to shift focus from the person performing the action to the action itself. For example:

Active:  The managers need to make changes in their management style.

Passive: Changes in management style need to be made.

Here, the passive voice is used to keep the tone impersonal and therefore more formal. We don’t want to focus on the person performing the action (the person who needs to make the changes). Instead, the passive voice focuses on the action (the fact that changes need to be made).

Compound nouns

Use compound nouns to help achieve a formal, business-like tone. This will also help to keep your writing clear and to the point. For example:

  • customer service manager (instead of saying “manager responsible for the services provided to customers”)
  • customer satisfaction (rather than “the satisfaction which customers feel”)
  • complaints procedure (not “procedure for dealing with complaints”)

3. Make It Reader-friendly

Here are some formatting tips that will make your business report easier to read.

Include a standard top section

This is a section that most people forget about when writing a report, especially if they write it on paper (not on a computer) as part of an exam. The standard top section is provided automatically when you write an email.

It is helpful to include a top section in reports, as well as in proposals and memos, because the reader sees at a glance who the report is addressed to, who wrote it, when it was written and what it is about.

To: (Provide the name of the person who is going to read the report. If you don’t know the name, you can write the position, e.g. the sales manager.)

From: ([Write your name.)

Date: (Write the date. Just stick to month and day and you can’t go wrong, e.g. December 9. Don’t forget months are capitalized in English.)

Subject: (Write a concise and helpful title for your report, so the reader quickly understands what the report is about.)

Use headings

When somebody reads a report as part of their job, they usually want to be able to find information as fast as possible. You can help them do that by using headings. Headings are like subtitles of the different sections of your report. They summarize the main ideas of a section.

For example, in this very blog post, “Include a standard top section,” “Use headings” and “Use bullet points” are subheadings which make the post easier to read.

Here are some example headings you can use in your business report:

  • Terms of reference (Why the report was written.)
  • Procedure (How you found out what had happened.)
  • Findings (What you discovered.)
  • Conclusions (A summary of the information you presented.)
  • Recommendations (What you suggest the reader should do. This is the only part in which you can be more subjective and present your own opinions.)

Use bullet points

Use bullet points to help you structure the information more clearly.

You may decide to use bullet points when you have lists of items. Readers love them because bullet points help with reading speed.

Make sure your bullet points follow the same grammatical structure. For instance, you may have something like:

I therefore recommend:

  • Organizing twice weekly get-togethers
  • Introducing teamwork whenever possible 
  • Creating a bonus scheme to reward high-performing employees

In the above example, notice how all the verbs in the bullet points follow the same grammatical structure (“-ing” form). We would not write, for example, “that we should introduce teamwork whenever possible” for the second bullet, because that would break the -ing pattern.

However, don’t overuse bullet points—especially in writing exams, where you need to prove your ability to use a variety of complex grammatical structures.

4. Master Business Vocabulary and Grammar

Good language makes a good impression, whether you are writing a report as part of your job, or as part of an exam.

Try to use a wide range of vocabulary to prove you have a good level of English. You can improve your vocabulary by reading business articles . 

The best way to really learn these new words is to use them, so whenever you come across a new word or expression, write it down and make your own sentences with it.

When it comes to grammar, you should try to use more complex grammatical structures like “if” clauses . For example, in the recommendations section, you could include something like:

If the company adopted a more modern corporate culture, the employees would feel more valued.

But don’t forget about clarity!  Sometimes really long and complex sentences are difficult to read. If it is not clear to you, it is probably not clear to the reader.

English grammar is a complex and sometimes confusing topic, so do not hesitate to ask for help when learning English grammar and using it in your business writing.

If you are currently in the United States, then you can use Wyzant to find an English grammar tutor or an English writing tutor near you. That is correct—there are tutors just for grammar and writing, and native English speakers need them too!

5. Watch Out for Spelling

Spellcheck may seem like the best invention ever when you are writing reports as part of your job. Remember that spellcheck tools can’t find all mistakes, though.

Also, you may want to use special sites that help check spelling—but you can’t use them in exams!

What you can do, however, is avoid using words if you are not sure of their spelling. You want to show your strengths, not your weaknesses. Naturally, when you prepare for the exam, you are going to stop and check the correct spelling in a dictionary. But during the exam, use a synonym if you’re unsure.

6. Proofread to Perfection

Set aside a few good minutes to proofread what you wrote once you’ve finished your report. Never hand in a report before you’ve had the chance to proofread it at least twice.

Why twice? Because it is difficult to focus on more than one type of mistake at a time. You should proofread it once for grammar and vocabulary mistakes, and once for spelling mistakes.

Watch out for double subjects (e.g. “A job description  it is difficult to write” — Incorrect), words that don’t fit into the context and words that are similar to words in your native language, but spelled differently.

Installing Grammarly on your web browser will help you catch many, many grammar mistakes in your English writing. It highlights mistakes and suggests corrections for you. You can use this while writing anything from reports to emails.

We know that some business reports are incredibly important to your company, to your clients and to your career. When you have an important business report that needs to be perfect and polished, we highly recommend that you contact Proofreading Services , an online team of professional editors with tons of knowledge and experience. They offer combined proofreading and editing for over 5,000 clients in 93 countries, and they give an exclusive discount to FluentU readers. All you need is our secret password: FLUENTU15 . This code entitles you to 15% off at ProofreadingServices.com !

Writing a really good business report is worth every minute. It is written proof that you understand the situation/topic, and can logically share that information with others.

It can help you create a good impression of both your writing skills and your business competence. Write your best and you will be seen as the best!

Ana Maria Hopartean teaches English as a foreign language at university level in Romania. She designed TOEFL and Cambridge exam preparation courses. She has a PhD in Psychology applied to language learning and her main focus is trying to help adult learners cope with anxiety while learning a foreign language.

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials , as you can see here:

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If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.

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FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:

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FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

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FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. You'll have a truly personalized experience.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store .

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georgie just finished writing a business report

How to Write a Business Report

A business report is a collection of data and analyses that helps make relevant information easily accessible to a company. There are many different types of business reports, but this guide will show you the basic outline.

Before You Begin:

  • Think about your audience and their expectations, and plan your report accordingly. For example, are they expecting a formal or informal report? Do they have an understanding of the vocabulary/terms used? Do they require more background information? Do they need to be heavily persuaded?
  • What is the purpose of the report? Make sure this is clear.
  • Gather and organize your supporting information/data/visuals.
  • Focus on the facts.
  • Make sure to be clear and concise, so the report is easy for everyone to read and understand.
  • Use a professional, standard font in a readable size.

Components of a Business Report

  • Table of Contents: Depending on the length of the report, you might want to consider including a table of contents. This will make finding specific information easier for readers.
  • Tip: Even though this is the first section, consider writing this section after you have finished the report. This will help you determine which points are the most important to address.
  • Introduction: This section outlines what you will be going over in your report. It includes the main points, chosen report structure, and, most importantly, the objective of your report.
  • Conclusion: In the conclusion, be sure to briefly summarize all of the main points in the order they were presented in the report.
  • Recommendations: This section is where you provide your recommendations or suggestions based on the findings you noted in earlier sections. Indicate the potential benefits for the company to applying your suggestions.
  • References: Be sure to cite all sources used in the report in this section.
  • Appendices: In the Appendix, you can add relevant documents, surveys, graphs, etc. that you referenced in the report.

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  5. 30+ Business Report Templates & Format Examples ᐅ TemplateLab

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COMMENTS

  1. Ch. 13 Quiz APT 380 Business Communications Flashcards

    supplying his own original ideas, conclusions, and recommendations. Julio is writing a business proposal on the advantages of an open work environment. He has done a lot of research on the topic from professionals and is trying to convince his manager that it would benefit their team. The best way for Julio to avoid plagiarism on a documentwide ...

  2. georgie just finished writing a business report that ended up being 35

    11/21/2022 Business High School verified answered • expert verified georgie just finished writing a business report that ended up being 35 pages long. now that she is ready to create the executive summary, how long should it be? Advertisement backu7995 is waiting for your help. Add your answer and earn points. Add answer +10 pts

  3. How to Write a Business Report: A Step By Step Guide with Examples

    Best practices. The answer to how to write a mind-blowing business report that you don't need to spend hours and days writing. A business report that will immediately allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. A report that'll help you learn more about your business and do more accurate forecasting and planning for the future.

  4. georgie just finished writing a business report

    The purpose of an executive summary is to o Represent briefly the most important elements of your report, including key findings and conclusions. Georgie just finished writing a business report that ended up being 35 pages long. Now that she is ready to create the executive summary, how long should it be? o Two pages... How to write a formal ...

  5. 6.4: Formal Reports

    Remember, just as with informal reports, your delivery method should not change the content or structure of your formal report. Practice Question. Abby finished a territory analysis report for her senior manager, Jose. The report turned out to be 35 pages, with additional individual store reports in the back that were almost as long ...

  6. Business Communication: How to Write a Powerful Business Report

    A business report should remain impersonal and framed from the company's perspective. The structure of a business report. Although the size of a report can range from one page to 100, structure is always important because it allows readers to navigate the document easily. While this structure can vary due to report length or company standards ...

  7. How to Structure a Business Report

    If you are writing a business report, aim to structure it as follows: Title Page - Include a clear, informative title, your name, and the date. Summary - A brief summary of what the report is about, the data collection methods used, the findings of the report, and any recommendations you want to make. Table of Contents - For longer ...

  8. 8.1 Organizing and Formatting Business Reports

    Step 1: Create a purpose statement for your report. To plan your business report, you will begin by writing a draft purpose statement. A purpose statement is a concise presentation of the key idea you will develop in your report. It is the focal point for the development of ideas in your report.

  9. How to Write a Great Business Report

    If you're writing a difficult report, get rid of everything on your desk. You can get a glass of water to keep you hydrated and maybe a pen and a paper if needed. Instead of spending a lot of time sorting through papers, collect them in a bundle and put them away. You can put them in a drawer and sort through them later.

  10. Business Report Explained: How to Write a Business Report

    Follow these steps to strengthen your report-writing skills: 1. Create a clear structure. You can include a brief title page, including the name of the report writer, date, and report title. Then, open with a table of contents so readers can easily reference page numbers and find what information they need. 2.

  11. Business Report Format, Writing Steps & Examples

    Step 1: Create a plan before writing. Before commencing the report, identify the purpose of the report. Find out the objective to accomplish with the report and how it can be presented. It should ...

  12. How To Write a Formal Business Report in 11 Steps

    How To Write a Formal Business Report in 11 Steps Indeed Editorial Team Updated July 19, 2023 Formal business reports have important functions in helping managers and executives make decisions. These documents can have a variety of purposes depending on your needs and industry.

  13. Welcome

    Welcome. - [Voiceover] Welcome to Writing Business Reports. I'm Judy, and I'll be guiding you through a variety of business report types and parts. As we examine how to write business reports, you ...

  14. How to Write a Business Report

    Tip: Even though this is the first section, consider writing this section after you have finished the report. This will help you determine which points are the most important to address. Introduction: This section outlines what you will be going over in your report. It includes the main points, chosen report structure, and, most importantly ...

  15. Exploring business reports

    The report types presented in this course, formal and informal, informational and analytical, and special and periodic, are representative of the types of reports business people write.

  16. 6 Tips to Write Irresistible Business Reports in English

    (Download) 6 Tips to Write Irresistible Business Reports in English 1. Understand What Reports Are For Business reports aren't the same as sending an email or writing a formal letter. What are they for? A good business report describes a present or past situation in an objective way. Objective means that the report states facts, not an opinion.

  17. How to Write a Business Report

    Tip: Even though this is the first section, consider writing this section after you have finished the report. This will help you determine which points are the most important to address. Introduction: This section outlines what you will be going over in your report. It includes the main points, chosen report structure, and, most importantly ...

  18. Business Comm Ch. 10

    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Nathalie, customer relations manager at Digital Media, Inc., must inform her clients of a 15 percent price increase for all services. In doing so, she should be sure to, Li, the art director at Impact Advertising, has decided to lay off a production assistant due to the loss of a ...

  19. Chapter 13 Flashcards

    Isabel is in the final stages of writing an important business report. Before she turns it in, she should. try to get others' perspectives on it first. Most business proposals deal with. decisions about allocating resources. The purpose of an executive summary is to. represent briefly the most important elements of your report, including key ...

  20. Writing the ending

    Buy this course ($29.99*) Transcripts Exercise Files Writing the ending " - All business reports will have one or a combination of these endings: A Summary, Conclusion, Recommendations. If the...

  21. Chapter 13 quiz busi .docx

    The purpose of an executive summary is to o Represent briefly the most important elements of your report, including key findings and conclusions. Georgie just finished writing a business report that ended up being 35 pages long. Now that she is ready to create the executive summary, how long should it be? o Two pages

  22. Writing a Business Report

    Course details. Learn how to write a well-constructed business report. In this course, author and senior Kelley School of Business lecturer Judy Steiner-Williams outlines the different types of ...

  23. just finished writing a business report that ended up being 35 pages

    10/28/2022 Business High School verified answered • expert verified just finished writing a business report that ended up being 35 pages long. now that she is ready to create the executive summary, how long should it be? Advertisement sarahtjohnston22651 is waiting for your help. Add your answer and earn points. plus Add answer 10 pts