Business Writing Tip No 40—More about Reports

When you’re putting together a report, the amount of information you need to include will dictate its length and the sections that you need to include. For a long report, you will want to create a logical structure that makes it easy for your reader to find the information they need. A shorter report still needs a logical structure, but may have fewer sections.

In this post I’ve included the principal sections that you would include in a full-length report, and what to include in each section.

Title Page

This page includes:

  • Report title
  • Author or authors
  • Date of issue (or publication)sample cover page

Avoid adding page numbering to your cover page.

It’s useful to centre to the information both vertically and horizontally and to use a large font size for the report title. To centre your page vertically in MS Word, use the page layout function. Put a section break (next page) at the end of you title page, and then use centre for your vertical alignment. Make sure you click that the alignment refers to ‘this page’ (not ‘whole document’ or ‘this point forward’). The alternative way to do this is to include a heap of manual line feeds, which makes for messy coding.vertical alignment - centred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Summary

This section is the most important section of your report because it is the section that most people will read.

It should include:

  • The subject
  • Your conclusions
  • A brief description of how you arrived at the conclusions

For a short report this section will typically be 100 to 200 words. For a longer report it could be up to one page long. It must stand by itself and be easy to read.

Contents List

You probably don’t need this for a short report, but it’s useful to include a contents list with page numbering for longer reports)

Introduction

This section:

  • Provides the background to the issue or work
  • Summarises the problem
  • Includes the terms of reference
  • Describes the purpose of the report

It is usually about 200 to 300 words long.

Body of the Report

In this section you describe the methods used to find out about the problem and the facts the method uncovered. This section also includes details of the significance of the problem and the associated facts. Present any alternatives you have considered, and discuss the benefits and risks associated with each option.

The body of your report may also include details such as the cost of each alternative and implementation times.

Each alternative should be discussed in a separate paragraph or, for a complex issue, you may include separate sub-headings.

Conclusion

This is a short section which should answer the question, ‘What is the real meaning of this report?’

Recommendation

In this section you state the recommended course of action and why you have chosen this particular course. You justify the idea that you are proposing.

If there are resource implications, i.e. you are suggesting particular people work on the project team, include them here. If you have a draft implementation plan, that can be included here or attached as an Appendix.

Bibliography or References

If you have referred to any documented sources in the report, include the details here. Some of your readers might want to read more about the information you have provided, or to check a source. This section can include details of books, journal articles, web pages, other company reports, and the like.

Before You Submit Your Report

Just a word of guidance. Before you submit your report, take the time to check the following:report check

Business Writing Tip #39—Giving Opinions

When you’re writing it may be important to state an opinion and to make it clear whose opinion you are giving. Is it your own? Perhaps it’s the opinion of an author, or that of a colleague? Here are some phrases you can use in your writing to signal that you are giving an opinion, and whose opinion it is. These phrases can also be used when you’re talking and can be useful when you’re putting forward a point of view, for example, when you’re at a meeting.giving opinions

Reporting Your Own Opinions

  • As far as I’m concerned…
  • As I see it…
  • Frankly speaking…
  • From my point of view…
  • I believe…
  • I guess…(US English)
  • I tend to (think, feel, believe) that…
  • I think…
  • I would have to say…
  • I’m convinced that…
  • If you ask me…
  • In my opinion…
  • In my view…
  • It seems to me that…
  • Personally…
  • Speaking for myself…
  • Speaking personally…
  • The way I see it…
  • To be honest…
  • To my mind…
  • What I’m trying to say is…

Referring to Someone Else’s Opinion

  • According to the writer…
  • As for the journalist…
  • As the writer puts it…
  • From [enter name here]’s point of view…
  • From the author’s perspective…
  • The author considers that…

There are some phrases we can use to introduce opinions that are governed by some other authority, e.g. the law, an official point of view, etc.

  • Legally…
  • Morally…
  • Officially…
  • With respect to the law…

When Something is Generally Known

Sometimes you might want to express someone’s opinion without saying whose opinion it is. For example, you could be referring to something that is generally known. In these cases you can use:

  • It is considered…
  • It is generally accepted that…
  • It is thought that…
  • Some people say that…

Business Writing Tip 38—Subordinating Conjunctions

In my last post I mentioned that there are two types of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating. Business Writing Tip 37 was all about coordinating conjunctions and I promised you some information about how to use subordinating conjunctions.

I had hoped to get this post published earlier, but I’ve been busy showing a visitor some of the sights of Prague, but I’m back at my desk now! Here’s a photo of one of Prague’s famous buildings, which is commonly known as ‘The Dancing Building’ that I snapped with my phone.dancing building

Anyway, first let’s look at what subordinating conjunctions do.

Subordinating conjunctions join independent clauses to make complex sentences, with one clause being subordinate to the other. Subordinating conjunctions also provide a nice transition between one part of a sentence and the next.

Here’s a list of some common subordinating conjunctions:

  • Because
  • How
  • However
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • Whether
  • Although
  • Though
  • Since
  • As before
  • After
  • Once
  • Till
  • Until
  • Whereas
  • If
  • Than
  • For
  • Notwithstanding

And now, here are some examples.

I wanted to buy the new book because the reviews had been good.

In this sentence, the subordinate clause is at the end. You can also place the subordinate clause at the beginning of the sentence:

Because the reviews had been good, I wanted to buy the new book.

Remember: when the subordinate clause is at the start of the sentence, you need to put a comma after it (after the subordinate clause, not after the subordinating conjunction).

When I answered the phone, I missed an important part of the meeting.

Or

I missed an important part of the meeting when I answered the phone.

Notice also that the clauses ‘because the reviews had been good’ and ‘when I answered the phone’ are not a complete sentence—they can’t stand alone.

 

Business Writing Tip 37—Some Words about Coordinating Conjunctions

Conjunctions join parts of sentences together. They can join short sentences together to help provide sentence length variety and make our writing smoother.

There are two types of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating. In this post we’ll look at coordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions join clauses or words when we want to give equal emphasis to both parts of the sentence. To remember which words are coordinating conjunctions just remember the word FANBOYS. English has seven coordinating conjunctions:fanboys

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

So now, how do we use them?

Here’s an example. First we’ll look at two sentences, and then look at them joined with a conjunction.

Sentence One: I wanted to work on the new project.

Sentence Two: My boss wanted me to finalise the annual report input.

New Sentence: I wanted to work on the new project, but my boss wanted me to finalise the annual report input.

Because the two clauses can stand alone as independent sentences, we need to put a comma before the coordinating conjunction ‘but’.

Now look at this example where we don’t need to use a comma.

Sentence One: I wanted to work on the new project.

Sentence Two: I didn’t want to head up the team.

New Sentence: I wanted to work on the new project but not head up the team.

I’ve joined the sentences with ‘but’ and removed extra words.

I might also have written ‘I wanted to work on the new project but I didn’t want to head up the team.’ (This version includes lots of words that aren’t adding to the meaning.)

We don’t use a comma in this case because the two sentences we’ve joined aren’t independent clauses. That is, the second part of the sentence—the part that comes after ‘but’—is not a stand-alone sentence.

In my next post, we’ll take a look at subordinating conjunctions.