4 Planning and writing reports
Writing a report is a common workplace activity for some, but may seem daunting if you have little or no experience of doing so. As with other forms of written communication, the key is to understand who the audience is and prepare and plan appropriately.
Case study: Shania
Shania has just started working at an estate agency. She has been asked to write a report about the numbers of properties sold and commission earned through the agency in the last six months. Before she can compile the report, she has to gather information and data. As she works through this data, she identifies some trends, such as two-bedroom flats selling more quickly than other properties and four-bedroom houses being the least in demand, although supply is fairly high. She will need to decide which aspects of her research and analysis will be most relevant in her report, so she consults with her manager. She also looks at previous 6 monthly reports to see how others have produced them and what has been included.
To ensure that you understand your ‘brief’, you need to clarify exactly what the report should include and the appropriate layout. For example, does it need a cover page, a contents page, an introduction and conclusion? Do the pages need to be numbered? Planning and preparation might include looking at how previous reports have been presented in the same context. This will give a quick insight and may answer some of your queries in terms of structure, length and tone. You could also talk to the person who has tasked you with writing the report to find out what their expectations are.
When compiling a business report, you also need to determine whether any additional research or analysis is needed.
You may find it helpful to consult this checklist before you begin.
Report writing checklist:
- consider the audience
- know your brief
- identify the best structure
- consider writing an outline/plan and obtaining some feedback
- gather information
- write content