Financial reports to shareholders, marketing plans and quality assessments are all examples of reports written for businesses. A short report is just like any other report but with fewer pages. It should state the key report objectives, summarise the background information, review the alternatives and recommend a way forward. Treat the report as a project -- plan for it, then write it in a clear and simple style. Short is good, because it's more likely that busy or disinterested but crucial parties will read it.
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Meet with superiors to clarify the requirements, because they will determine the report's format and content. For example, a project evaluation report will not be structured in the same way as a marketing plan or a financial report.
Research the background material, including documents provided to you when you were assigned the writing assignment and material that you gather independently from the Internet, the library and from meetings and conversations with stakeholders (such as business unit managers, suppliers and customers).
Prepare the report template, including an executive summary, an introduction, sections for alternatives and proposed solutions, recommendations and a conclusion.
Write the introduction. Usually no longer than a paragraph, the introduction should state the report's objective and identify the key issues. It should be a guide for the rest of the report but should not summarise it. For example, the first line could be: "The objective of this report is to examine solutions for the ongoing quality issues at our manufacturing facility," followed by a synopsis of the main issues.
Assemble the body of the report. In the manufacturing facility example, sections could include technical details, a list of alternative solutions along with a cost-benefit analysis for each, and recommendations. A business plan would have a different set of sections, such as market research, competitive analysis and financial projections. Whatever the format, the sections should be in logical order so that the reader does not have to flip back-and-forth to figure out the content.
Conclude the report by referring back to the report objectives. For the manufacturing facility example, the conclusion could be an implementation plan for the recommended solution. For a financial report, the conclusion could be the business outlook.
List the references cited within the text by identifying the publication they came from, the title, the author and the date. List other relevant sources in a bibliography or resources section.
Write the executive summary. In about a paragraph or two, summarise the report so that a busy executive can grasp the key points and skim through the details later. For a financial report, the executive summary might just be a table showing key sales and profit trends.
Prepare a cover page with the report title, date and authors' names and affiliations. Include a table of contents for reports that are longer than 15 pages.
Address the transmittal letter to a person (a manager or a contracting officer), not to a department. Identify the key recommendations of the report, provide your contact information and list the attachments.
Tips and warnings
- Tables, charts and detailed calculations should be placed as appendices, but the key takeaways should be incorporated in the main report.
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