Creating business documents requires more than just good writing.
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Well documented procedures are an important part of the management process and are often the only way that management can monitor the quality of work produced and investment made. At other times, documentation is the key to spotting best and worst practices and reports are often the basis for all future planning, so their accuracy and relevance are crucial.
In this article, we will discuss the basic structure of professional reports, how to choose the right format for your reports and tips on writing good reports.
The Basic Structure
Business reports are used to provide documentation – a written record – of a topic, project, or process.
The following are the basic parts of a proper business report:
- Overview/Executive Summary
- Background/ Project Scope
- Main Body:
- Actions Taken
The main body section of the report contains all of the details of the project or topic, including facts, methods, data, calculations, results, and interpretation. Depending on what type of report you are writing, the conclusion section provides the final result, recommendation, proposal, or concluding judgment of the report’s authors.
Choosing a Format
As with the other business documents, such as the business proposal and the business letter, the format and length of business reports vary depending on the situation.
Be guided by the:
- The purpose of the report
- The seniority of your readers
- Your readers’ technical knowledge
- The scale of the project
- Standard protocol in your company
Writing the Report
The following are some tips in writing a business report.
- Keep the purpose of the report in mind when writing your report.
Ask the person who requested the reports what they are expecting to see in the report and how they plan to use your documentation. This information can guide you in deciding what data to include in the report and which format is best.
- Stick to objective data, unless there is a section for personal opinions.
Reports are meant to be fact-based and impartial; it’s not written so that you can present the company’s performance in the best possible light. It is only when a report is accurate that enables it to truly useful. Therefore, make sure that you double-check your content. Remove any biases you may have included (we all have our own opinions, but reports are not the medium to present them). If your opinions are being solicited as part of the report, only provide professional opinions substantiated by facts.
- Write to your audience.
Know who you are writing to, and determine how best to address this audience. Define the tone, attitude, and emphasis that are geared towards your readers. A report for a mid-level manager will have a different tone and style then a report delivered to the Board of Directors, and a report for the general public will be completely different than a report prepared for internal company use.