Image showing hands with pen, a person report writing

Report Writing Tips for Effective Business Reports

The task of report writing can be mastered with practice and knowledge of the steps involved. A business report is a factually correct and concise document that assists with decision making. In general, business reports present facts and not be based on opinions. Though there are many business report formats, the basic structure of a business report is often standardised.

In this article, we will look at some useful tips for effective business report writing that can improve your results.

#1 Identify the purpose when report writing

Identifying your purpose when report writing is a crucial first step. Having a detailed discussion with relevant co-workers and managers should help you get the right perspective as everything else depends on your understanding of the purpose. The purpose of report writing can range from informing an audience, convincing people or employees, recommending new ideas to finding solutions to problems.

Report writing involves a certain amount of effort and assimilation of information. With so much information available, it’s only natural that you may stray from the purpose of the report. Stay focused on your purpose by

  • Having a clear understanding of what your report should achieve
  • Organizing your thoughts before writing a business report
  • Making an outline
  • Having a picture of the important or specific information to be communicated.

#2  Recognise your target audience when report writing

While report writing, your readers are your audience so customise the business report to cater to their needs. Your target audience can comprise both a primary and secondary audience. People who make decisions based on the report and check the feasibility of the recommendations in the report are the primary users of your report, while the ones affected by the decision taken are the secondary readers.  For instance, if you prepare a financial business report, the primary user would be the person who asked you to prepare the report while the employees or shareholders could be the secondary readers.

Here are a few points that you may need to keep in mind about your audience while report writing:

  • Who are your readers?
  • What is the level of knowledge of the readers?
  • What more do they need to know?
  • How do they intend to use the report?
  • What are the expectations of the readers?
  • Is there sufficient information to satisfy all stakeholders?

#3 Make your business report reader friendly

Another factor to consider while report writing is to keep it reader friendly. The way information is presented in a business report can determine if the reader wants to examine it or just treat it as another piece of paper lying on his or her desk. A neat and readable format is easier to read and assimilate.

A few tricks can improve readability when report writing:

  • Choose appropriate headings to make it easy to navigate and get readers interested.
  • Include bullet points to enhance reading speed and get the message across more effectively.
  • Organise information in a logical way that flows.
  • Use appropriate fonts – nothing too fancy or out of the ordinary.
  • Include headings that summarise the corresponding section.
  • Avoid writing long paragraphs – create new paragraphs at appropriate points.
  • Use infographics, tables and charts to manage large amounts of information.

#4 Adopt an unbiased writing style when report writing

We can tell when the tone of someone’s voice changes. It’s the same for readers too. They perceive the tone of a writer’s message, which in turn can influence perceptions.

It’s best to keep the tone neutral when business report writing. Using passive voice can help in keeping the tone formal as the focus would be on the action rather than the person.

Sometimes it’s necessary to write a business report objectively. In such situations, you should provide recommendations and conclusions only if they are asked for. You can include a separate section for recommendations and conclusions, while keeping the overall tone neutral and objective when report writing.

Here are a few tips on how to set the tone when report writing:

  • Ensure that the language is polite and genuine.
  • Highlight the importance of what you need to convey but don’t overdo it.
  • Communicate the advantages to the reader.
  • Avoid a biased writing style.
  • Avoid using jargon when you can do with everyday English.
  • Use short words when possible.
  • Cut down on unnecessary words.

#5 Consider the structure when report writing

Organise your business report on a simple structure – introduction, text and conclusion. Lead your reader through your business report by maintaining a logical flow; the report should flow from one point to the next naturally. Ensure that the report is appropriately long to achieve its purpose.

Though you may have chosen effective headings, ensure that the paragraphs under the headings flow logically. Typically, a paragraph in a business report should contain 100 to 150 words, with a main sentence that defines the core idea of the paragraph, followed by support sentences that substantiate the main idea using statistics and examples.  You may also include a finishing sentence that highlights your analytical skills.

#6 Proofread after report writing

Read and revise what you have written not once but twice when you have finished writing. Check for grammar and spelling errors, and repetitive information. During the first round of proofreading, check for spelling and grammar errors. Next, look for repetitive information or words that are out of context.

Using Microsoft Word to check spelling will not always work. Polish your business report with alternative spelling and grammar tools like Grammarly, Ginger and Whitesmoke.

You get the best results from your proofreading exercise when you put away the document for a day after you are completely done. When you come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind, you will often find mistakes you didn’t spot earlier.

At Word Nerds, we offer report writing services for most types of organisations, including business, government and professionals. We will be glad to discuss your report writing requirements and how we can assist.

If you are interested in customised business writing training for your organisation, find out more about our business writing course.

Michael Gladkoff