How to Write a Professional Report
Well-written professional reports not only provide useful information in clear and concise ways, but they also help to establish the author's credibility and authority on the subject matter. Avoid the pitfall of a poorly organized report by preparing before you even start to write. Use the draft stage to commit your information to paper; correct the grammar and spelling in the editing stage.
Establish an objective or purpose for your report. Decide on the message and information that you want the readers to obtain from the report.
Obtain the information that you need to support your report's message. Collect other reports, statistics, research and journal articles, as well as any relevant emails and memos.
Make a list of all the points that you want to cover in the report. Group similar points together, and assign each group a title that you will use for the section heading.
Writing the draft
Write the title section of the report, including the title and subtitle, author and date. Decide on the circulation list for the report.
Write the introduction and include the purpose of the report. Explain to the readers why it's important and beneficial for them to read the report. Detail your terms of reference and explain how the report is laid out and how your information is organized.
Arrange the groups of points you want to make in a logical sequence, each in its own section. Use the title of each group as its section heading, and explain your information and how it relates to the purpose of your report. Use subheadings if necessary to make your information easy to read.
Detail your conclusions and recommendations in a separate section. Identify the conclusions you have drawn and any recommendations you make.
Write the summary of the report last. Detail your report's purpose and reiterate the main points you have made. Include any supporting documentation, such as graphs, tables, or other reports in an appendix. If your report is more than 10 pages long, include a table of contents.
Arrange your report in the sequence as follows: title, table of contents, summary, introduction, sections, conclusions and recommendations, and appendix.
Check your report for spelling, grammar and punctuation, and correct any errors. Read over the report closely and remove any text that doesn't support your thesis.
Improve the report's clarity by eliminating any jargon that the reader may not know, and use shorter words in place of long ones. Divide long sentences into shorter ones, and change passive sentences to active ones.
Ask someone to read over the finished report to checking that the purpose of the report is clear and that you present your arguments and information logically. Change any part of the report that causes your test reader difficulty.
Write clearly and concisely so that the reader can understand the report after just one reading.
Frame your report objective in the form of a solution to a problem.
Write for your audience. Reflect on what they want to know and how they want to be told the information.
Many readers read only the summary and conclusions of a report, so make sure that these sections contain the outline of your report's purpose and conclusions.
- "Secrets of Writing Killer Essays & Reports"; Donald McMiken; 2010
- "Contemporary Business Report Writing"; Shirley Kuiper; 2009
- Write clearly and concisely so that the reader can understand the report after just one reading.
- Frame your report objective in the form of a solution to a problem.
- Write for your audience. Reflect on what they want to know and how they want to be told the information.
- Many readers read only the summary and conclusions of a report, so make sure that these sections contain the outline of your report's purpose and conclusions.
Christina Ash has been writing since 1982, throughout her career as a computer consultant, anthropologist and small-business owner. She has published work in various business, technology, academia and popular books and journals. Ash has degrees in computer science, anthropology and science and technology studies from universities in England, Canada and the United States.