Creating a report for business or school might be one of the most challenging writing assignments we encounter.
Throughout my career, I have held the titles of bureaucrat, administrator, and private consultant, each of which required me to pen dozens, if not hundreds, of reports covering a wide range of topics. When I got my MBA in the mid-1990s, it seemed like I was taking a crash course on report writing.
So, to aid others in their report writing, I have included a few pointers I’ve learned over the years.
The phrase “business report” is enough to make many people wince in horror. Although business reports are more involved than letters, they may still be written quickly and painlessly with the appropriate technique.
Common examples of business reports include general business reports, proposals for new businesses, marketing plans, strategic plans, analyses of existing companies, reviews of completed projects, and projections for future endeavors.
The “report writing process” will be relatively consistent across reports, notwithstanding subject- and context-specific technical content and language differences. That “process” will contain the same core steps whether you’re writing a small 10-pager or a lengthy 100-plus pager.
I believe the following seven guidelines should be followed while producing any business report. If you follow these instructions precisely, you can’t go wrong.
1. Verify That You Understand The Client’s Needs
This first step is crucial. Ensure that you and the client are on the same page regarding the desired goal and the effort required to achieve it. Always consider the ultimate product (the report) when making this determination. What problems does it need to solve? In what ways is it meant to steer you? Specifically, what will be included? What is the desired result, if any?
2 Identify the Required Report Format
This is another crucial point that needs to be made at the outset. A wide variety of business reports exist. Indeed, there’s often crossover between categories, but there are also crucial distinctions. Do they need a marketing strategy, financial plan, strategic business plan, corporate information management plan, or something else entirely? Determine up front what format your final report should take.
3. Perform Primary Investigations
You can begin your preliminary pre-report research once you have a firm grasp of the client’s (or your own) needs and the specific type of report they seek. This phase could involve doing nothing more than reading through some client-provided background materials.
Requiring doing surveys and interviewing relevant persons in depth. The answer is context-dependent. Of course, the Internet may greatly facilitate and accelerate the research process, but verifying all information several times is still important.
#4: Create the Table of Contents Initially
One of the most crucial steps in creating a high-quality business report is, in my opinion, outlining the TOC before you begin writing the actual essay. Creating this report is often done before or in tandem with the start of the information collection phase of a project. A rough draft TOC won’t cut it here. It should include a detailed plan of what you expect the TOC to look like in the completed report. This requires some forethought and effort, but it streamlines the rest of the procedure significantly. I like to imagine how the final report will look and then write it down. It works perfectly! This TOC will serve as a guide for the remaining steps.
If you are composing this report on behalf of an outside customer, you should, at this stage, send them a draft Table of Contents for their review and approval. This will make them deliberate and make sure this is what they desire. When they sign off on a TOC, you’ll have their “buy-in” for the rest of the process, significantly lowering the likelihood of substantial revisions or reversals before the final report is submitted.
5. Conduct Any Further Investigations
After carefully considering the TOC, you’ll know if more investigation is needed. If so, finish your research and prep work before writing the report. That way, you won’t have to stop writing to do more research; you’ll have everything you need right at your fingertips from the start.
6. Draft the Initial Document Outline
When using Microsoft Word, one of the first things I do is make a template. In other words, before you start writing the actual text, you should insert the complete Table of Contents that you have previously generated into Microsoft Word (see Point 4), heading by heading, including sub-headings. The document’s current state consists primarily of numbered lists of headers and subheadings separated by white space. Then, manually enter your planned Table of Contents into Microsoft Word and have it build an automatic one that matches it exactly. After that, you can begin adding text to the sections of the document that follow the various headings and subheadings.
Fill in the Blanks 7. Write the Report
Yes, by completing the implied meaning. The actual report authoring is much like filling in the blanks once the TOC skeleton framework has been established per the last phase. Simply begin at the beginning and read each heading and subheading in turn until you have concluded. Really. After that point, it should be easy sailing with everything set up.
The aforementioned “report writing process” procedures will help you assemble reports quickly. Try it out; it will help you out.
Shaun Fawcett runs two of the most popular writing resources on the Internet. He has written many “how-to” books that offer straightforward advice on many aspects of writing. His comprehensive guide to writing and formatting business letters for any circumstance includes basic templates. There is also a bonus chapter on report writing for business.