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Difference Between Formal & Informal Reports

Updated February 21, 2017

Your manager has asked you to research a market trend and produce a report to your department so that your company can create a strategy to increase your market share and profits. At this point you must decide what type of report to write. Knowing the differences between formal & informal reports will help you choose the correct style.

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Informal Report

Informal reports are typically internal reports, and can go to other members of the department and department heads. They are also used for reports that will circulate throughout the company. They use personal pronouns and contractions. Though the report may be several sections long, it is typically much shorter than a formal report. No contents page is included. Informal reports can even be formatted like a memo.

Informal Structure

Your introduction and conclusion are included in the body of the report, and there is no abstract. Include very short headings, if necessary. In the introduction, briefly state the problem, what you have done and your final conclusion. You have a target audience, so speak directly to them in your discussion. State the facts and do not embellish the details, but make sure the report is understandable. Remind the reader what your conclusions were. Your report will be right-justified with a 10- to 12-point font. Include your recommendations and the progress you have made toward solving the problem. Be positive about the expectations and recommendations.

Formal Report

If you are writing a report for upper management or for another organisation, you will need a formal report. Formal reports are also used for research papers in higher education. Formal reports are longer and well researched. Formal reports are impersonal, rarely using personal pronouns and contractions. Summaries are located on separate pages and usually have more than one heading. Formal reports may also be preceded by a proposal. Include a contents page if your report is more than five pages long. A cover letter or memo may be required.

Formal Structure

Include a cover page that is resembles a book cover. The abstract briefly summarises the problem, the process of research and final conclusions in one page or less. Your title page will cover the title of the report, the person who compiled the report, the publisher and submittal date. Summarise your initial thesis or the purpose of the study, and include all the details that are necessary for your audience to completely understand the question. Include a table of contents and a list of tables and figures. The body of your report will include an introduction, overview of the research and final conclusions and recommendations. End your report with acknowledgements, a list of references where you located your research and any appendices.

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About the Author

Rebekah Smith

Rebekah Smith is a writer and editor from Montana and the owner of several businesses. Smith has consulted and worked with businesses in the fields of commercial greenhouses, ecommerce, technology and home improvement. She holds a Master of Business Administration and is working on a Ph.D. in business.

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