Writings and observations.

An effective business report

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

Effective decision making is vital in the business world. Companies require access to information that is concise, easy to interpret and clearly presented. Many decision makers refuse to deal with reports or proposals that are over specified lengths. Reports must be useful to accurately assess situations, solve problems, and meet goals.
Imagine that one of your managers at work has given you an assignment to write a professional report. What should you do first? A good framework for how to proceed is found in the outcomes of Boise State’s English 101. In that course, students apply strategies for generating ideas for writing. They deal with planning and organizing material, illustrating their awareness of a writer’s relationship to the subject, context, purpose, and audience. In the BSU First-Year Writing program, students produce writing in non-fiction, inquiry-based genres, and use an academic documentation style. They use a variety of strategies to integrate evidence gathered from experience, reading, observations, and/or other forms of research.

With this in mind, you should begin by identifying clearly what you are writing about. A client or your supervisor may request a written document from you in the following way:

Our organization is interested in receiving a proposal that shows how we can lower our security costs with sustainable sources from our current base of employees, especially our essential personnel.

Once you have clearly identified your topic, explore its scope. What is “inside” and “outside” of the main idea? A good way to determine the boundaries of your topic is to create a concept map. Write your topic in the middle of your computer screen or a sheet of paper. Circle it, and then write down everything connected with it that comes to mind.

Good reports feature carefully constructed introductions, detailed bodies and logical conclusions. You need to clearly state your purpose. Workplace documents tend to be written for two primary reasons: to inform or persuade.

Write specifically for your audience. Who are your readers? Are they familiar with your topic or completely new to it? What are their needs and expectations? Will they be reading at their desks, in a meeting, on an airplane? Will they read your report from a printed page, a computer screen, tablets or smartphones?

Pay attention to the context of your document. External influences shape how your readers will understand, interpret and react to the report. They will be influenced by contexts including place, medium, and social and political issues.

Write paragraphs that are shorter than those in a traditional essay. Get right to the point. Provide lists of main points, followed by expanded descriptions. See 8 Steps to More Concise Writing by Mark Nichol http://www.dailywritingtips.com/8-steps-to-more-concise-writing/ on the Daily Writing Tips site.

Use headings and selective highlighting to draw attention to major points where emphasis is required. Where possible, include graphs, tables and diagrams. Express and justify your own point of view. Provide strong but condensed conclusions with recommendations for action.

To help develop this type of writing, Boise State professor Bruce Ballenger recently published a new edition of The Curious Researcher: A Guide to Writing Research Papers. The book offers full explanations of the technical aspects of writing and documenting source-based papers. It includes a variety of examples from student and professional writers. A unique chronological organization sets up achievable writing goals while the text provides week-by-week guidance through the research process. Ballenger also includes up-to-date coverage of MLA and APA styles.

The skills required in writing effective reports will help you get the job you want or succeed in the job you have. They can also help consultants gain and maintain clients.

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