In a business environment, a report is used to present research, data or findings and provide recommendations for the next steps the business should take. A report is an excellent way to communicate complex information or large amounts of data in a succinct and clear format to a varied audience. To write up your report, clearly define your goals, use an established write-up format and follow report-writing best practices.
Determine the Goals of Your Report
The first step to writing an effective report is to identify your goals. What is the purpose of your report? Establish what information you want to convey.
For example, is your report on marketing activities showing the successes and failures of a particular campaign in order to determine whether to conduct a similar campaign again? Is your market research report providing data to support your new product concept and whether or not the company should go in a new direction?
Establish the Audience
Once you’ve determined the goals, it’s critical to establish the audience of the report. For whom are you writing the report? Is it for colleagues, managers, customers, prospects, investors or a third-party consultant? You’ll need to know how much your audience already knows about the topic so you don’t waste time repeating information with which they are familiar.
Similarly, if your audience doesn’t have any background details on your topic, you’ll need to provide them with a strong foundation to understand the research and recommendations you’re offering.
Use an Established Report Write-Up Format
The write-up format for your report should keep your goals and your audience in mind. An effective report follows a structured approach using headings to help the reader follow the content at a glance.
- Summary: Start your report by offering a short summary about your goals, research and recommendations. Your summary should be no more than a paragraph long and should provide a brief synopsis of the rest of your report. In business, people often don’t have time to read an entire report. As such, a summary helps them to quickly understand the main information they need to know.
- Introduction: Follow your summary with a short introduction to the topic. If you need to offer background information on the topic, you can do so here.
- Research: Next, cover the research you reviewed when writing your report. This may include numerical data, surveys, qualitative data, past business reports, newspaper articles, academic studies or independent research. Be sure to analyze the research and summarize the takeaways for the reader.
- Conclusion: Provide your insights based on the research in the form of a conclusion. What does the research tell you about the business and its activities?
- Recommendation: Lastly, provide your recommendations on the next steps the business should take. Prioritize your suggestions so that the reader knows what is most important and what is time sensitive.
- Appendices: If necessary, add additional research, findings and data to your report. This provides the reader with further resources they can consult if they need more information on the topic of your report.
Report-Writing Best Practices
Write up your report so that it is short and succinct. Remember that your reader may not have the time to read a lengthy report, so it’s important to keep it brief. Use the active voice so that your recommendations are easier to follow. Use bullet points where possible instead of dense paragraphs to help the reader digest the information easily.
Apply the tone of your business environment within the report. If your business is more formal, for example, your report should be as well. If your business is casual, on the other hand, you can opt for more casual language and a more casual tone in your report.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.