Business reports are often placed in a durable plastic binding or bound using a spiral or comb binding to ensure that they will hold up to multiple readers. The report format that businesspeople use for bound reports is called "manuscript format." A report in manuscript format contains several sections: a title page, a letter of transmittal, a table of contents, an executive summary, an introduction, a background of the problem or situation, a discussion, a solution, a conclusion, a works cited, and appendices.
Begin the report by creating a title page. The title page can be formatted in several different ways, but it must contain the title of the report, the name of the author, the name of the recipient and the date.
Create the letter of transmittal. Although the report might have multiple recipients, the letter of transmittal is addressed to the head of the committee or the highest-ranking person. The letter of transmittal introduces the assignment and covers the major points. This acts as an advance summary for the recipient of the report.
Write the body of the report, starting with the introduction. The introduction describes the purpose of the report, the problem that you are discussing and the scope of the problem. For example, if the topic of the report is the lack of parking at your workplace, you would describe the parking problem, the reason your company must solve the problem and which parking lots you are discussing.
Create a section called background and purpose that will discuss any relevant background information. The recipient of the report might already be aware of this information, but including it will give the rest of the committee a thorough overview as well as demonstrate your knowledge of the topic. For the parking example, you might discuss the fact that the lots were adequate when you started but since the company merger in 2004, the new employees have had problems finding parking.
Write a section that discusses the various solutions to the problem. The management will want to be informed about all of the possible solutions, or all of the possible causes in the case of an analytical report, to the problem. Cover each solution or cause in detail and provide evidence for each.
Describe the best solution or the most likely cause. If you are advocating a solution, provide a budget and a timeline for the solution so management has a clear picture of all of the money and work involved with implementing the solution. If you are describing a most likely cause, explain what it might take to address the cause.
Write a conclusion that summarizes the report and reiterates the need to implement your best solution or address the most likely cause. Provide action information, such as relevant dates for meeting to vote on the solution or other meeting information.
Create a works cited section that lists all of your sources. This will allow management to read more about the problem or to verify your facts.
Place any appendices, such as a copy of a survey or a detailed schematic, at the end of the report.
Create the executive summary after the body of the report is written. Then, place the executive summary directly behind the table of contents in the report. The executive summary should be approximately 1/10 of the length of the body of the report and should be a comprehensive overview of the entire report. The purpose of the executive summary is to provide a thorough summary of the entire report for the committee.
Write the table of contents last, but place it behind the letter of transmittal. When you are finished with the body of the report, type in all of the major headings and subheadings and place them on the table of contents, along with their page number.
Bind the report. If your report will only be read once or twice, a clear plastic cover with a slide-on binder will look professional and be durable enough for a few uses. If your report must be more durable, take it to a copy shop and ask to have it bound. The copy shop can put a high-quality plastic cover on the report and insert a binding on it. A comb binder is a suitable, inexpensive option, but a spiral binding will be the most durable and attractive choice for only a few dollars more.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.