The goal of a business report is to persuade others to make changes and/or to make advantageous decisions for your organization. Here are go-to rules for creating business reports that stand out and show you to be an accomplished professional.
Know your audience.
Gear your report to your audience’s level of interest and knowledge. When addressing internal personnel, offer in-depth information, knowing they’ll understand all industry jargon or concepts. When writing for an external audience, offer a more straightforward presentation, and include explanations as needed.
Know your report’s rationale.
Do you want people to learn more about a pressing situation? Anticipate and prepare for a potential problem? Approve funding for a new project? State the report’s purpose in your title and introduction so readers are clued in immediately.
Gather important facts and figures—access internal reports, speak to key stakeholders, and conduct online research. Be sure to double check all data, because inaccurate information makes you look bad and can lead to poor decisions.
Recommend specific, measurable actions.
Explain the goal you’d like to see implemented, along a timeline and actions that can be taken to accomplish your goal—on time and within budget.
Create an executive summary.
Executive summaries should be no more than one page double-spaced and give a brief overview of the report and all crucial points. And although the summary is the first thing people will read, you should write it last.
Write clearly and concisely.
Use short words and sentences. Include only relevant information that supports your statements. Break information into separate sections—for instance, “Customer Data” and “Cost of Sales.” Readers should be able to scan heads, subheads and bullets to easily grasp all points.
Keep conclusions short.
Support concise conclusions with information from your research. Create recommendations for solving any problem(s) raised in your report. Make sure to reference potential benefits—higher sales, increased productivity, and so on.
Edit and proofread.
Never rely on spell-check alone. Reread and edit what you’ve written. Then proofread, proofread, proofread. Typos and grammatical mistakes will undermine anyone’s credibility.
Make your report look good.
Include colorful, easy-to-read, charts and graphs as needed. Print your report on good-quality paper and place it in a folder. Presentation counts!