Writing Business Reports
Business professionals have a unique style of writing and it is different from writing in other professions. Just like doctors have complex terms and procedures with their own vocabulary and chemists use numerous symbols with language that looks foreign to an outsider, business executives have also adopted a distinct set of vocabulary and style of formatting to describe and communicate common observations and experiences. This topic is addressed thoroughly in a book I co-authored with Julie Zwart called Business Writing Style Guide. Use this link to learn about Common Characteristics of Business Writing, this link to a detailed description of The 3-Part Writing Process, and the table comparing academic and business writing in a section Formatting a Business Report.
Business relies heavily on effective analysis and reporting. Although there is no such thing as a business report template — the format of the report always depends on the nature of the organization and the context in which it operates — the underlying principles for what makes a good business report translates nicely from business school to the business world. Because of this, I have provided a Sample Client Report from an archived assignment with extensive comments in Google Docs. This sample demonstrates the following and was representative of a “B-” project. Use this sample to understand what good critical thinking (analysis) and writing (reporting) looks like.
- There are a lot of comments in the margin. You may need to click on the highlighted text to see the actual comment. You may also need to click on the “Show more” link to see all of the specific comment.
- The report generally follows the framework laid out in the “Report Outline” of the assignment instructions. All required elements are addressed in the appropriate sequence. While you will rarely have a boss that will specify what sections to write about, doing so makes evaluation easier for the Instructor.
- While the report makes periodic use of passive voice, is overly wordy in places, and underdeveloped in others, it is generally well written with only minor grammar mistakes that do not significantly impair the reader’s ability to understand what is written.
- The author fully grasps the syntax for writing “actionable” recommendations, but the report does not provide sufficient supporting analysis to document “why” the client should heed her advice.
- The Executive summary is written better than the introduction. It appears more effort was put into the former than the latter. The paper misses opportunities to use graphs or charts to illustrate observations in the introduction that would otherwise make the report much more persuasive.
- Analysis is underdeveloped. Little reference is made to the textbook or lectures. No models are cited from the student’s business education. The space devoted to analysis is reflective of a cursory look at the data to generate recommendations rather than a deep dive. I favor narrow-and-deep analysis over broad-and-shallow when I evaluate a client report.
What if I Have to Present?
I have addressed this topic thoroughly in a book I co-authored with Julie Zwart called Business Writing Style Guide. Use the link here for a specific set of recommendations on What if I Have to Present?; see information for how to create effective slides in a business context along with fourteen specific suggestions for delivering presentations.