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Communications – Writing Business Reports

What Is a Report?

Reports are documents which contain specific information about a particular subject i.e. time, date, event or incident. It can be presented in various forms such as long pieces of text, graphic or in tabular form. Its purpose is to inform the reader in detail about the subject matter.

Reports are objective-oriented documents meant to convey information from one organization to another in the hopes that it will aid and fasten the decision-making process. Reports have four main characteristics.

  • Reports are usually requested by people in higher position and as such, it logically travels upward in the hierarchy.
  • Reports depend entirely on logic.
  • They’re meant to be unbiased.
  • It is usually prepared for a limited number of people.

Types of Reports

There are various ways of forming a report. The way a report is presented depends mostly on the purpose it has to serve. Often, the purpose is stated as a conclusion in the thesis or purpose statement. Reports can vary depending on the style and the tradition and rules of the place that they are being created for.

Formal or Informal

Formal reports are:

  • Written with specific guidelines.
  • Objective in nature.
  • Contain all the necessary information.
  • Written in an impersonal way. Use of first-person point of view is strictly discouraged.
    Informal reports are short messages written to convey an immediate situation, mostly in a conversational language. One example of these is the internal office memo. A report that is particularly long is generally considered to be a formal report. Ex. Research papers.

Informational or Analytical Report

An informational report only focuses on the events that have happened, and works to explain those events, the people involved or the actions that have taken place, in detail without trying to explain the why or how of it. It isn’t concerned with looking into why something must have taken place, only informing that it has.

An analytical report is the exact opposite of this, in the sense that it explains both the event and why or how it happened, and then strives to provide a solution to the problem or makes recommendations on how to extrapolate the event, in case, it is beneficial.

Vertical or Lateral  Reports

  • Vertical Report – This report either moves from upward to downward or vice versa in a business environment. This is concerned more with management and how to control it.
  • Lateral Report – This is also related to management. These reports travel from one department to another which are on the same level in an organization.

Internal or External Reports

Internal Report – This is usually for departmental use within the organization.

External Report – This is for the people outside the organization, such as shareholders, government or potential business partners.

Periodic vs Functional Reports

Periodic Report – This is made on particular dates every week or every month so as to provide an overall idea of how the organization is keeping up.

Functional Report – This is for particular departments to determine how they’re doing. For example, accounting, marketing, etc.

How Are Reports Organized?

There are six key elements taken into account while preparing a report. As long as you keep the famous 5Ws and 1H in mind, it’s easy to understand. They are:

  • Whom the report is made for or about whom it concerns?
  • What were the events that happened and what was done to resolve it?
  • Where did the events take place?
  • When did the events take place?
  • Why was the report made in the first place?
  • Who commissioned it?
  • What would be done with the report?
  • How did the event take place?

Purposes of a Report

The report has a certain purpose. Given below are some of the ways that you can make sure your report is ready.

  • The report focuses on the needs of the audience.
  • The format of the report matches the reason of the report.
  • The format is made with the guidelines from the institute that it is being prepared for.
  • Information is verified and has the full picture.
  • It is easy to read.
  • The terms used in the report make perfect sense.
  • The figures and tables drawn and written on the report are correctly labeled.
  • The result of the report can be easily grasped.
  • The recommendations made are doable and within reason.
  • It must be clear that a lot of effort has been made while writing the report.
  • The report is complete and doesn’t require you to clarify anything beyond it.

Parts of a Formal Report

Overview – Your report should be prepared keeping in mind exactly what the reader is looking for in it, the reason that it is being prepared in the first place, and the subject of the report. Whether a report is formal or informal, can be determined by the way in which it is written and the length of the overall report. A formal report has a more precise, to the point and stunted way of writing. Informal reports are conversationalist in nature and easier to read for the general public.
A report contains 3 basic sections:

  • Preliminary Parts
  • Report Text
  • Addenda

Preliminary Parts – The preliminary parts of a report are made with the sole purpose of making it easier for the reader to understand what they’re getting from the report and how to find specific information.

  • Title Page – It contains the name of the report, the author, the date, and the name of the business for which the report is being prepared. This is when the report is quite formal and contains a lot of information on the inside. The title should accurately indicate what the report is about.
  • Table of Contents – Through this page, the reader can learn where exactly the information is located and give an idea about what is inside the report. Table of contents contains the name of a certain topic along with the page number. It indicates where the summary, reference and other parts of a report are.
  • Table of Figures – Similar to the table of contents, the table of figures pinpoints the graphs in a report and contains the page number and name of the graph to identify it better.
  • Executive Summary – This is generally a paragraph that presents the main points of the report in shorter, fewer words. Focuses on the most important parts without spoiling the entire report. It tells the reader exactly what they’re about to read in detail and is usually before the page of the body or report. The purpose of the executive summary is to briefly state the different topics covered in the report, explain the most important parts in short, and the conclusion of the report.

Report Text

  • Introduction – It begins to introduce the reader to the report. Usually, it contains the topic, what is being reported about the topic, how much the research was made on the topic, from where the information was gathered, and a brief explanation of the terms used.
  • Body – This is the core part of the report. It presents the information collected in a more concise and explanatory manner, and elaborates on the issue.
  • Analysis – A report is only finished when a proper analysis has been given on how the information in the report affects the business and what should be done about it. In the case of informational reports, it is finished with only a summary of the main points. In the case of an analytical report, a solution is presented to the dilemmas found in the report through analysis. The writer usually presents a solution based on their personal opinion.
  • Addenda – The addenda will generally include:
    • References – As reports are made through findings from prior research, the sources which have been used are stated here. No reference that has been used should be left out.
    • Appendix – This contains the extra information that is complementary to the report, but including it in the text might distract the reader from the actual matter.
    • Index – The index contains the page and number of the subject in the report.

Additional Tips on Formal Reports

Content Outline – This is a type of framework based on which the report is made. It separately identifies the major and minor points in a manner that is logical and sequential.  Analytical reports focus more on criteria that will help address the issue.  Informational reports depend more on the logical manner of presenting information, it can be either by topic or by geographic region. And if the report is inductive, the conclusion will be at the end of the article, while if it’s deductive, the conclusion is usually at the beginning.

Using Headings Effectively – This is how the readers can tell what they’re about to read next. Since reports are large summaries, chances are that the heading is used in the text too. So, a subheading should have smaller font size while a heading of the same level has the same font size and style.

Choosing a Writing Style for Formal Reports – In Informal report, first-person pronouns are avoided at all costs. The report should be in active voice and uses either past or present tense. There should be text in between the headings. The pieces of texts should connect to each other. Table and bullet points can also be used for certain points. The terms should be explained and used in the proper context.

Enhancing Credibility – Stay away from terms that are conversationalist or emotional in nature. If you’re going to write assumptions or opinions, make sure it is made clear and readers don’t mistake it to be research.

Analyzing a Formal Report – The standard APA style is a double space between texts, and the first line should be indented about half an inch. If the company chooses a different reporting style, then you should adhere to them instead.

Short Reports

Short reports are exact and focus only on the problem, the findings and the conclusion from it. Short reports are more personal and conversational in nature. Contractions and graphics are used. Headings and subheadings are also made use of. According to the situation, they can be in memorandums, e-mails, and letter formats.

  • Memorandum, Email, and Letter Reports – Memorandums are usually sent between people in the organization, and are usually reports via email.
  • Form Reports – Form reports are used as template for reports which are repetitive in nature. They help to improve the uniformity of the reports, and eliminate unnecessary extra preparation time. They also increase accuracy by setting a proper format.

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