What makes an effective report that my boss will be happy with? What are the common formats used when writing formal reports that will be read by others in my company, clients, and business partners? These are two common questions that can be addressed once you learn the basic terms for writing business reports.
Vocabulary – Expressions – Phrasal Verbs – Idioms:
Report – A comprehensive written presentation regarding a particular subject or issue. For example, a report title might be, “A Report on Demographic Driven Trends in Mobile Phone Use”.
Title – The name of the report – there might be a long title, and shorter title for easy reference. For example, the title might be “Some indications of growing uncertainty in the paper manufacturing industry.” The shorter title might be, “ The paper manufacturing industry uncertainty report”, or even, “The Smith report” after the person who wrote it.
Management summary – A brief synopsis of a longer document or communication to enable the reader to understand the overall contents of the document without having to read the entire thing. Useful for people who may only have a general “need to know”. The Management Summary should be written once the longer document is completed.
Introduction – This should give the reason or reasons that the report is being written, the background to the report, perhaps some background of the author, and also acknowledgments to those people who have helped in the writing of the report.
Technical terms and abbreviations – This section should list any special terms which will be used, as well as abbreviations.
Footnotes – Numbered notes which refer to notes usually collected at the back of the report, or at the bottom of each page, which elaborate on points being made within the report.
Bibliography – A list of documents, books and other sources which were used in the compilation of the report.
Contents – The contents page is self-explanatory; it should list all the sections so that the report can be easily searched.
Body – The body is the main part of the report, the meat so to speak. It is generally divided up to make it easier to follow, using chapters or sections. It will contain considerable detail, and will usually be divided into easily identifiable paragraphs which may be numbered or otherwise denoted.
Conclusion – A summary of conclusions to be drawn from the report, and further actions which should be taken.
Findings – The facts and conclusions which the report highlights.
Many reports gather dust on shelves. A good report is relevant, easy to read, with technical terms and abbreviations fully explained for the non expert reader. A good management summary is essential if the report is going to be influential, as busy senior decision makers often don’t have the time or the inclination to read lengthy documents.
Excellent footnotes can help make the report an easier and more concise read, while supplying supporting information and facts for those who are most interested in the subject matter. A bibliography makes the report more authoritative.
The introduction and conclusion are the most important parts of the report, as many readers are really only interested in answering the question, “What should we do about this issue?”
Live Conversation Example:
Harry Kane: I’m so glad to have finished that report – it was a long job, but I think you’ll find the conclusion to be very interesting.
Rachel Flint: I’ve had a brief look at the management summary and I’m impressed. You’ve done a very thorough job.
Harry Kane: Well, I think you’ll find that the footnotes add a lot; you’re an expert after all, and I wanted to make sure that contents stood up to robust examination.
Rachel Flint: I like that attitude. Did you include a bibliography?
Harry Kane: Yes of course. And some of your papers are included, they were so helpful.
Rachel Flint: Well thank you, I’m glad I could shed light on this tricky issue. I’ll be reading the whole report this week, and then we should hold a meeting to discuss your findings.
Harry Kane: I appreciate that. I’m really looking forward to hearing your opinion.
How can reports contribute to your day to day work?
If you were asked to write a report on some aspect of your work, how would you go about it? What subject would you choose?
Can you think of a report which has been influential in your business life?
What are the attributes of an excellent report?
Will reports continue to be important over the coming years, in view of changing communication methods?