Business Reports

by Pamela Hubbell

Business Report writing is used for a wide variety of topics and objectives, and a report can vary greatly in length, content, and format. Examples include annual reports, monthly sales reports, reports requested by management exploring a specific issue, reports requested by the government showing a company's compliance with regulations, progress reports, and feasibility studies.

Before writing the report it is important to determine the purpose of the report. Is it to evaluate the need for new quality controls in manufacturing? Is it to report the results of a new hiring procedure? Is it to investigate competitors' products and services? Is it to propose cutbacks in the training program in order to offset budget cuts in the department? You should be able to describe your objective in one or two sentences.

You also should determine the audience for the report. Your audience may be upper, middle or line management, other departments in the company, coworkers, the client, potential clients, the government, or another company in the same market. Knowing who your audience is helps you determine what type of information to include in the report.

Finally, you will need to gather information for the report through research, interviews, and your personal knowledge about the topic. Research may include a search of literature external to the company as well as of material internal to the company. Interviewing key people or using questionnaires to survey a greater number of people may provide excellent information and data. Regardless of the sources you use, it is important that the conclusions and/or recommendations in your report be based on quality information. Remember to keep detailed information on all sources used so they can be properly cited in your final report.

Often, a Business Report is the product of an accepted Proposal. Other times, a Proposal will be written after the report in hopes of gaining approval for the recommendations. Refer to the Proposal tips page for more information.


Writing the Business Report

Companies may have a standard format for reports, or you may have to decide the content and format yourself. Generally, the standard components of a Business Report are:

Title Page

Letter of authorization

Letter of transmittal

Table of contents

Synopsis or summary

Introduction

Body of the report

Conclusions

Recommendations 

Bibliography

Appendices 

Brief Guidelines for Sections 

Letter of authorization: 

This letter comes from the person who authorized the report and should state the purpose of the report and its significance to the company and/or recipients. 

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Letter of transmittal: 

This letter is usually in memo format and contains a list of everyone who should receive a copy of the report. This can be used as a check list for distribution.

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Table of contents:

For page numbers, use lowercase Roman numerals (i, ii, iii) for the letter of authorization, letter of transmittal, and synopsis. All other sections should be numbered with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3).

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Synopsis or summary:

The synopsis provides a one-half to one page overview of the report. Identify the purpose of the report as well as the results. Be sure to include key information. Refer to the Executive Summary page for more information.

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Introduction:

The introduction should describe the purpose of the report, the research methods, and the organization of the report. It should provide the reader with the necessary background information about why the report was written. The introduction should also generate interest in the report.

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Body of the report: 

The body of the report should include all the relevant information you have gathered. You need to present your findings along with the supporting information and analysis. You can also use illustrations such as charts and graphs to support your results. Organize this section using headings (centered) and subheadings (left justified).

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Conclusions:

Briefly and clearly state your findings or conclusions. Depending on your objective, your conclusions will vary. For example, if your purpose was to evaluate the need for new quality control procedures in manufacturing, you may conclude that because of the increasing number of defective products and customer complaints, it is vitally important for the company to improve their quality control procedures. However, if your purpose was to investigate competitors' products and services, your conclusions would briefly describe the relevant products on the market.

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Recommendations:

You may be asked to provide recommendations for further action in addition to your findings or conclusions. For example, you may propose changes to the quality control procedures. Be sure to justify your recommendations and provide an implementation plan.

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Reference

Baugh, L. Sue, Maridell Fryar, and David Thomas. Handbook for Business Writing, 2nd Ed. Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC Business Books, 1994. 142-59.

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