Business report writing is a difficult but important subject
To master reports are your chance to prove that you can play an effective part in business decision making. Business reports need to be professional and concise, without coming across as dull and rather boring.
Here are 10 tips to help improve your business reports.
1. Evaluate the target audience
A title alone is not enough to write an effective report. You need to consider exactly who the report is for. If you are writing for non-financial managers its best to present financial highlights rather than pages of how exactly the figures were arrived at. Think of the reason why they are reading the report and try not to stray from that reason.
2. Write a strong introduction
A strong introduction will captivate the readers attention and entice them to read further. It will lay out a reports objective, problem definition and the methods employed to solve the problem. Writing a strong introduction makes it is easier to keep the report well structured.
3. Keep the report free from errors
Your report could completely revolutionise your business but spelling and grammatical errors could really lessen its impact and make it appear unprofessional. It is important that all calculations are double- checked as just one typo could lead to people questioning the accuracy of your data as a whole. For really important reports, its worth having a colleague proof-read it for you.
4. Use appropriate language
The language used in the report needs to be appropriate for the audience of the report. Its always best to keep the language as clear and concise as possible. The facts of the report should speak for themselves and they neednt be over-embellished with a colorful narrative or turn of phrase.
5. Avoid lengthy reports
If the report is too long, it is likely that the most salient points will get lost. It is always best to keep a report as clear and concise as possible. If calculations or exact references need to be provided the Appendix is the best place for them.
6. Always use an objective style
It is always better to let people arrive at reasonable conclusions for then trying to talk them into it. An objective style helps and allows the evidence to remain the main focal point. Avoid using ambiguous phrases like may be, seems to appear and probably.
These could lead to people perceiving the report as merely conjecture on the authors part.
7. Keep the format simple
Be careful not to distract the reader by using too many fancy and colourful fonts. These only serve to distract the audience from the content of the report. If the report is to be delivered in a presentation format (like power point for example) then graphics and flash are a good thing but beware of over-indulging. Only use images that reinforce and add value to the reports findings.
8. Dont overdo the charts and graphs
Charts, graphs and tables are a great way of summarising data into easy-to-remember visuals.
Try not to break-up the flow of the report with too many graphics that essentially show the same thing. Pick the chart, graph or table that best fits with the report and move succinctly on to the next point.
9. Keep the report attractive
It is of vital importance that a business report be neat and legible for the reader. A successful business report proves that you can play an important part in business decision making.
10. Use logical analysis
A report can really hit the mark if good supporting evidence is used to back-up the statement of facts presented. There must be a clear chain of evidence between the research collection, analysis and any conclusions reached. Never introduce something into the conclusion that was not analysed or discussed earlier in the report.