A business report is an official document that conveys crucial information to the concerned stakeholders. Therefore it needs to be prepared following a correct structure to serve its purpose. In this guide, we have listed 8 elements of a business report along with do’s and don’ts of report writing.
Structure of report writing in business communication
The structure of a business report can be divided into three parts, The Front Matter, The Body of the Report and The Back Matter.
1) Letter of transmittal (Cover letter)
2) Title page
3) Executive summary
4) Table of content
5) List of figures/ Illustration
(B)-Body of the report
7) Findings and Documentation
8) Conclusion and Recommendation
9) Appendices, References and Glossary
Note: The letter of transmittal is an optional element of reporting which may or may not be included depending on the type of report prepared.
The front matter consists of all the opening components of a business report. This includes a title page, executive summary, table of contents and a list of figures/illustrations. A letter of transmittal, which serves as an official cover letter, may also be included.
The following elements are included in the front matter of a report:
1) Letter of Transmittal (Cover):
The letter of transmittal serves as a customary cover page. Its purpose is to state the title of the report and if necessary, briefly preview conclusions, state the purpose and mention key highlights.
It mentions who commissioned the report and appreciates the efforts of those involved in the project. This letter is attached to the top of the report and is written in a courteous tone.
2) Title Page:
As the name suggests, the title page is the opening page of a business report. It comprises the following:
- The title of the subject
- Name of the writer
- Name of the receiver, title and organization
- Purpose of the report
- Date of submission
The title of a business report should clearly convey the type of report and its purpose. It should be written in capital letters and centred in alignment.
3) Executive Summary:
The executive summary or the abstract is a major element of a business report. It is written for busy executives who may only read this part of the report. It offers a summary of the entire report and its findings.
- Purpose of the report
- Scope of the investigation
- The methods used to conduct the investigation
- Key findings along with essential statistics
- Conclusions, analysis and recommendations
Note: You can further check out the following blog by Hubpots on powefull executive summary for more details.
4) Table of Contents:
For longer and more detailed information, a table of contents is a necessary element of report writing. It provides the readers with an overview of the content present. This helps them easily locate particular sections of a report. All headings and subheadings are listed along with page numbers in the exact order of appearance.
5) List of Figures/Illustrations:
The graphic aids (charts, graphs, photographs, diagrams, etc) used in a business report are organized in their own separate table of contents. A list of figures or list of illustrations helps the readers locate the specific page where this information is presented.
If a report has only tables, it is called a list of tables. If it has only figures with no tables, it is termed a list of figures. And if it contains both tables and figures, it is collectively called a list of illustrations.
(B)Body of a Report
The body contains the meaty content of the report. After the introductory sections, is where the substance of the report lies. The body of a report may vary according to the type of business report.
For example, The essential elements of a technical report will differ from the content in a progress report.
The following sections make up the body of a report:
The introduction is the ‘beginning’ of the report. This is the section where the structure of the report is detailed. Along with this, key questions are answered such as “what is the report about ” and “how can it be used”.
This is where the page numbering of a report starts. The introduction of a report is used to:
- Define the main subject or problem
- Provide brief background information
- State the overall purpose of the report
- State theoretical foundations, scope, methodology and any limitations
7) Findings and Documentation:
This is one of the main elements of a report. It is also usually the longest section of a report. The factual findings are presented along with an interpretation of the data collected.
The key findings of the investigation are explained in detail. The writer mentions all the sources used to formulate the report. This helps in the authentication of the report and allows the readers to visit the source material for further information.
All significant information gathered is documented in this section. Both positive and negative points are mentioned to form conclusions and recommend solutions.
The relevant questions pertaining to the report, its purpose, addressing problems and analysis of information are present in the findings and documentation.
The findings and purpose of the report are summarized in the conclusion. The information presented in the report is analyzed and the advantages, limitations and actions that need to be taken are stated in this section.
The writer must avoid including new information in the conclusion. It must only be relevant to the data presented in the rest of the report.
The recommendation is one of the prime elements of the structure of a business report, this part includes the recommended actions that need to be taken based on the findings of the report. They are relevant to:
- What must be done
- Who will do it
- How and when they will do it
- Where it will be done
Recommendations can be made for improvement, implementation of new ideas or change which will help the company’s performance.
Following the front matter and the body of the report, we have the back matter. This section of the report highlights auxiliary and supporting segments such as glossary, references and appendices.
The glossary serves as a dictionary providing definitions of technical terms used in the report. The words are listed in alphabetical order.
The glossary is listed before the appendix and if very brief, it can be placed just after the table of contents.
A report is only considered authentic if all accurate sources are listed. All references from where the data was collected are mentioned in this section. Data collected from third-party sources such as stats, facts and journals must be credited to their original sources.
The appendix is the last element of business report structure that contains supporting information which would be too bulky to include in the body of the report. This is considered an optional section which may or may not is included in a report.
It contains specialized information such as maps, questionnaires, interviews, letters, etc.
Process of Writing a Business Report
The following steps are involved in writing a business report:
1) Determine the purpose:
Report writing features a clear purpose as to why a report is being written. Reports are used as a medium for communication and solving problems. The writer must identify the target audience for the report. To write a good report, they must be able to answer relevant questions such as why, what, how, when, by who, etc.
2) Developing a plan:
After understanding the purpose of a report, a working plan should be developed. This is used as an outline for writing the report.
The writer evaluates the scope of research during this step. Which sources of information to use, people to interview, methodology for investigation, etc. are all planned during this step.
3) Collecting information:
The next step in the process is collecting relevant information to draft the body section of a report.
The writer selects possible sources for information and conducts an investigation for the study. This process may vary depending on the type of report. For example – for advanced research, field trips may be required.
4) Organization and analysis of information:
In this step, the writer uses specific methodologies (use of statistics and trends, consulting superiors, etc.) to study the information collected. The content is edited according to the objectives of the report. Relevant details and key findings are analyzed and organized according to the type of report.
5) Forming conclusions and recommendations:
Once the data collected is analyzed, the writer devises a final conclusion for the report. Specific actions are suggested to implement change, cause improvement and introduce new ideas.
6) Selecting the writing method:
After the writer has formed a conclusion, they must choose the writing format. The writing method follows a specific sequence.
The two methods of writing a business report are:
- Inductive Method: The content is arranged sequentially from the front matter to the body of the report. The flow of the report starts from introduction to analysis to conclusion and finally, recommendations.
- Deductive Method: This writing method focuses on arranging the content in a conclusion to introduction to the analysis sequence.
Related Reading: Check conjointly guide on Deduction & Induction methods for more details.
7) Writing and submitting the report:
The writer finally writes the report based on their findings. An outline is usually followed for writing a report. Before preparing the final draft, the writer checks and carefully reviews the rough copy. This includes checking the accuracy of the information, grammatical errors, presentation, etc.
After following all the steps of report writing in business communication, the writer submits the final draft of the report to the concerned authority.
How to Make a Business Report Reader-Friendly
Business reports are documents used to communicate information. They should be written in a way which is easy for the reader to understand. The style, language, grammar and structure need to be clear and concise.
Here are some ways to make a report ‘reader-friendly’:
- Using a consistent font scheme which is easy to read
- Use of abbreviations and acronyms
- Using white space on a page generously
- Numbering the headings
- Short introduction and conclusion
- Single idea per paragraph
- Following an overall theme
- Writing a strong conclusion
- Easy-to-read format
- Clear and simple language
- Grammatically correct and consistent
- Using synonyms for commonly repeating words
- Avoiding emotional and personal language
Common Mistakes To Avoid While Writing a Business Report
- Using first-person pronouns such as “I”, “Me”, etc.
- Ignoring the author’s guidelines for writing the report.
- Not following a consistent writing style and format.
- Making language complex and stretching out descriptions.
- Using passive voice more than active voice.
- Not proofreading the report carefully.
- Using unverified and inaccurate data.
- Using sexist and/or racist phrases.
- Using slang language and incorrect grammar.
- Not including footnotes where further information is required.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1.What is a business report?
Ans. A business report is a written document used to communicate information about a subject and make recommendations. They are used in making decisions and reaching specific objectives. Business reports bridge the gap between different levels of management.
Q2.What are the types of business reports?
Ans. There are a number of business reports. Some of them are:
- Analysis Report
- Progress Report
- Statutory Report
- Formal Report
- Informal Report/Informal Business Report
- Routine Report
Q3. What is the importance of a business report?
Ans. Business reports are used for a number of vital functions such as tracking development over time, leaving an audit trail for the company’s activities and solving complex problems. They are an important component in business communication as they help bridge the gap between different sectors of an organization. A business report is used for evaluation, decision making and implementation change.
Related Reading: 20 Importance of Report Writing In Business Communication
Q4. What are the characteristics of a business report?
Ans. The characteristics of a business report are as follows:
- Provides factual information.
- Written in a clear and concise manner.
- Drafted in an unambiguous style with easy-to-understand language.
- Objective and logical presentation.
- Used as a reference to assess business activities.
Related Reading: 15 Characteristics And Features of a Good Business Report
Q5. Which element is not part of a business report?
Ans. An introduction is not included within the 8 elements of the business report. A good business report is written following an orderly structure. Starting with a letter of transmittal (cover letter). An introduction is a part of the body of a business report but it is not included at the beginning of report writing.