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Blackie's Guide on Effective Business Report Writing - Part 1


Blackie's Guide on Effective Business Report Writing - Part 1

1. Introduction
Why do people write reports? There are numerous reasons for that. You have to give a weekly report on the company's progress with regards to a particular project. Or you have to give quarterly feedback on the work your department is doing. Whatever the reason, reports have become an integrate part of our business society.

Yes, there are different types of reports. Yes, the report structure differs from one to the other. But to write an effective report one has to adhere to certain basics. In part one of this article I intend to focus on the following two points:

" Report Preparation
" 16 Points on how to get the message across - Points 1 - 5

2. Report Preparation
Before you start writing a report you have to focus on certain points and obtain certain information. Firstly you have to know the purpose of the report. Then you have to decide what information you will need to write the report. And lastly you have to think about some preliminary outcomes. Let's focus on these three points.

2.1 What is the PURPOSE of the report?
The purpose of the report dictates the way you will write the report as well as the way the report will be presented. Decide if the purpose is to describe a particular situation, to recommend changes, to give facts or to give a record of progress.

2.2 What INFORMATION is needed?
Decide what information you will need for the report. Get this information and then compile all the information. Do not collect information that is not directly linked to the purpose of you report. You might have the urge to collect as much information as you possibly can and then try to include it in your report. This only clutters the report with nice to know information and defiles the purpose of the report. It also makes it difficult for the reader of the report to understand the exact purpose of your report. To sum it up, only collect information that is directly linked to the purpose of the report and that will help to clarify what you want to say. Then put it all together.

2.3 What Preliminary OUTCOMES are there?
Think about possible conclusions and recommendations. Prepare some arguments. This will help you focus on the report. Take note that this conclusions and recommendations are not final. You may change your mind when you actually write the report as findings in the report might give you new insight.

This was the three steps when you prepare to write a report. Let's summarize:
1. Decide on the PURPOSE of the report
2. Decide what INFORMATION is needed for the report
3. Decide on Preliminary OUTCOMES for the report
3. 16 Points on how to get the message across - Points 1 - 5
In this part of the article I will focus on the ways to get the message across to the reader. There is 16 points that I will focus on.

3.1 Tell a STORY
What I mean by this is not that you write a novel. I am saying that you should write the report in a coherent, logical and well sequenced way. My advice to you is to learn how to tell a story. This will help you in writing the report. If you learn how to do this your report will not be disjointed. One section of the report will relate to the next. It will be easy to read. It will encourage compulsive reading.

3.2 Put the END at the FRONT
You will most likely present your report to executives or people that you respect. These people are more often than not presented with tons of reports daily. You have to encourage these readers to actually read your report. To accomplish this you should place the conclusions and recommendations at the beginning. I usually place it in a part of the report that I call the executive summary. This tells the reader what the report is all about and what you are recommending. It makes the reader curious on why a certain recommendation is being proposed and encourages the reader to read the report. If I placed a recommendation as follows: I recommend that the WHITE HOUSE be called the BLACK HOUSE, don't you think that the reader will want to know why I am recommending it.

3.3 Page LAYOUT
The page layout of the report is very important. If done right it improves the visual appearance of the report. The report will not look "heavy" and it will be attractive. If you write a report that is continuous and difficult to read, you will instantly loose the reader's attention. If, however, you place paragraphs in the report, condense the report and improve on the overall visual effect of the report, you will catch the attention of the reader.

3.4 Graphics
Some information is very difficult to interpret. To make it easier, I suggest you use graphics. Do not overdo it and keep it in context. The use of graphs, tables, organization charts, flow charts and scatter grams are examples of graphics that can be used in executive reports. Just make sure that the graphics improves the report and that it stays in context of the purpose of the report. It will do you no good if you place the super bowl statistics in your report because you know your boss loves the super bowl.

3.5 Spacing
Use plenty of space. This gives the reader a place to make notes. It also makes the report easier to read. I suggest that you use one-and-a-half spacing. Use only one side of the paper. And start new chapters on a new page. I know that it is sometimes said that you should try to reduce the amount of pages you use. If you are able to develop skills in writing concisely, you will be able to give plenty of space and, at the same time, reducing the amount of pages for the report.

In Part 2 of this article I will continue to give you the points needed to get the message across to the reader. If you have any queries or comments please contact me at Blackie@Post.com or Blackies@Blackiesshop.com and make sure to visit my website at url=http://www.BlackiesShop.com


Submitted by:

Blackie Swart

Blackie is a managment services consultant. His main purpose is to improve profitability. Visit his website at http:///www.Blackiesshop.com or http:///www.PlugInProfitSite.com/main-17575





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