In producing reports, many factors come into play. That’s what we’ll be discussing in this guide—apart from learning about what a formal business report is, how to write a business report, types of reports, and reporting skills. Read further to start your journey to becoming an expert report writer.
What is a Formal Business Report?
To learn how to write a business report, the first step will be to know what it’s all about. Take a look at this definition.
A formal business report can be referred to as an official document in which data, research, and information are stated for use in a company’s decision-making processes. It’s what helps a management team to set objectives and goals, as well as plan on how to achieve them.
Based on its purpose, a business report could be written using numerous pages, or it could just be one or two pages. The copy can contain extensive data and information that are all relevant in making an important management decision. Take a look at the common types of reports below. They were selected based on purpose.
- Periodic report
- Research studies report
- Feasibility report
- Investigative report
- Situational report
- Compliance report
- Recommendation/justification report
- Yardstick report
Away from the types of reports, let’s take a look at some examples of a formal business report. This will help the report writer in his or her quest to become better at the task. It’s relevant to building your reporting skills. Check the links below.
- Example of a recommendation/justification report showing a proposed idea (a 5-year operational plan) to the management of a company.
- Example of a periodic report showing information on staff turnover in three months gathered by a company’s human resources department.
Importance of Reporting Skills
In report preparation, you need to understand why you’re writing it. What is its importance?
The first one we’ll be discussing is how producing reports helps a business to store data for real-time use or future reference (e.g. digital data in business reporting). This may include information about growth, revenue, expenditure, profits, losses, customer behavior, consumer trends, etc.
For example: When it comes to Big Data in business intelligence (BI), companies process very large amounts of digital data. They make reports from the data analyzed in order to get quick insights. By 2016, the average company was already managing about 162.9 terabytes of digital data.
Another one is the fact that producing reports help companies to provide useful information that can be used to forecast their financials, develop marketing strategies, prepare budgets, make smart decisions, etc.
Thirdly, knowing how to write a formal report will help an employee to provide details about the team’s or department’s progress. In turn, the team leader or manager will be able to track growth, spot trends, and uncover inconsistencies. Investigations can then be carried out based on what’s noticed.
Furthermore, producing reports will provide a company’s auditors with all the relevant records of business activities for a period. For example; annual budgets, sales reports, profit and loss accounts, etc.
Lastly, report preparation helps a business to achieve transparency. For example; public companies need to present annual reports to shareholders, government agencies, and so on. It’s a legal requirement that no company can take for granted.
How to Write a Business Report
The steps described below should help you in your quest to learn how to write a formal report, and/or improve your reporting skills.
- Plan the draft
- Verify the in-house style
- Use a heading or title
- Include a table of contents
- Put a summary at the beginning
- Write an introductory section
- Make an outline of your methodology
- State your findings
- Make sections for your conclusion, recommendations, bibliography, and appendices
- Proofread and make final edits
1. Plan the Draft
In report preparation, it’s important to know the purpose, report structure, tone, objectives, etc. of the draft. Doing this will make the writing process simpler and faster.
2. Verify the In-House Style
Be sure about the report structure that is to be used for the draft. The company may have an in-house style that you’re not aware of, especially if you’re a new employee. Ask or check the company handbook for the right format to use.
3. Use a Heading or Title
The first thing that comes to mind is the structure of a report is the title or heading. One may be suggested in the brief given to you. Make sure that the title is clear and in bold at the beginning of the draft. Include your name and any contributor, as well as the date of submission.
4. Include a Table of Contents
There should be a content page just after the title, writer’s name, and date. This will make it easier to find chapters and subheadings in the copy. A table of contents is necessary when the report has many pages. Make sure that the page numbers you input are matching the headings. It’s advisable to write the table of contents after writing the report.
5. Put a Summary at the Beginning
Just like the table of contents, this also has to be put at the beginning of the copy. However, it should be written after the report is finished, since it’s a summary of the contents. It can also be titled “Abstract”. The summary or abstract isn’t necessary for a short report. Write points about your findings and conclusion, as well as an overview of what the report is all about.
6. Write an Introductory Section
An introduction is important in the structure of a report. It contains details on the purpose of the report and the background of the subject. You can give a summary of what the main idea is all about. Sometimes, other pieces of information may be included such as definitions and adequate explanation of concepts.
7. Make an Outline of Your Methodology
This is necessary for a report that contains research work. Describe your research methods here. For example quantitative method and qualitative method. Also, state the reasons for using the chosen method.
8. State Your Findings
This is where the writer has to describe the outcome of the research embarked on. It should be presented logically and concisely. This section may contain images or graphics such as tables, graphs, etc.
9. Make Sections for Your Conclusion, Recommendations, Bibliography, and Appendices
Your critical thinking skills would be needed for the conclusion. State your views about the outcome of the research (findings). Recommendations for solutions can follow, then a list of the sources of data or information used (bibliography). The appendices section contains all the materials that were used to explain the report. For example; tables, maps, questionnaires, and so on.
10. Proofread and Make Final Edits
Proofreading involves checking for errors in grammar and spelling so that credibility can be ensured. Don’t overuse jargon and technical terms, and avoid using complex words when there are simpler alternatives. Lastly, check the writing flow to be sure that there is coherence.
You could use Canva to design the report for presentation in order to make it aesthetically pleasing. However, make sure to use simple designs since the report is a formal one.
For a better understanding of the steps explained above, watch this YouTube video on how to write a business report:
Best Ways to Learn Report Writing
The best way to gain reporting skills is to take courses. Three links to various online courses from Udemy and Coursera have been given below.
- Reporting Skills & Professional Writing: Learn How To Easily Create And Deliver Reports That Lead To Action
- Online Course On Reporting Skills & Professional Writing: Reports That Lead To Action
The frequently asked questions below have been curated for readers to gain more insight on what has been discussed so far. Some of the questions are just reminders of some points in earlier sections. You’ll surely find some useful answers.
Which Is the Best Strategy to Follow when You Write a Report or an Essay?
Make sure that you follow the format (structure of a report) or in-house style of the company.
What is the First Step in Writing a Formal Report?
As stated earlier, the first step in producing reports is adequate planning.
How to Write an Introduction for a Report?
An introduction should be written before the body. It needs to contain the reason for writing the report, as well as a background on the main subject.
What are the Top Report Writing Tips?
The most important report writing tips are given below:
- Plan the draft
- Verify the in-house style
- Proofread and making final edits
As stated in the answer to the FAQ above, one of the most important report writing tips is to proofread and edit. In producing reports, completion means that there are no errors in the draft. Even if a report writer follows almost all the tips given in this guide, mistakes in the draft can be costly depending on their gravity, and the status of the recipient.
Learning how to write a formal report may be difficult depending on the purpose, but the knowledge gained will be worth it at the end. Just follow the tips and don’t forget to check the links given.