Top tips for writing effective reports

Top tips for writing effective reports

Writing reports can be one of the most tedious tasks you come across at work. Tempting as it is to forego the process, these reports can be critically important when it comes to evaluating business progress, history and growth, giving you a platform for comparison and measurement of success.

These reports may be informal (generally shorter and more regular such as a memo, monthly activity or progress reports) or formal (generally more complex, involving more data and used at a higher level, such as recommendation and analytical reports). No matter the format, reports need to be clear, concise and professional, and we’ve compiled a few tips on how to achieve this:

Memos

Perhaps one of the most common report structures, a memo should be clearly marked Memorandum on the top of the page, followed by the date, the recipients, your name and the report’s subject.

The body of the report should be short, factual and well-organized bullet points. Reference notes should be placed at the bottom with all relevant documents attached.

Informal reports

Informal reports should be made up of an introduction, body and conclusion with recommendations and next steps.

Use bullet points or graphs to share the information if they are easier to follow. Include questions, suggestions and a call to action.

Formal reports

These reports contain a lot more information and analysis and therefore the structure would contain a title page, contents, executive summary, main body, conclusion, plus the glossary, appendices, references and acknowledgements where appropriate.

The title page should be clear and uncluttered, followed by a contents page with all the headings and subheadings for the main body.

The executive summary outlines the findings of your report, it tells the reader what the report is all about and is the first thing they see, but it is much easier to write at the end when the rest of the report is completed.

The body text contains all the information along with discussion, generally written chronologically in order to be easy to follow, and is summed up by the conclusion.

The end of the report should contain the glossary, appendices and relevant references and acknowledgements for your report.

Whether you are writing an informal or formal report, keep things concise, precise and crystal clear. Ensure that you follow the right format and structure for each report you write and keep sentences and paragraphs short, using simple, easy to follow language. Always keep in mind what your readers want and structure your report to those requirements.