How To
13 min

Business Report Writing - Step-By-Step (With Examples)

Reem Abouemera

October 1, 2022

When it comes to business, a lot is riding on your reports. Whether presenting to clients, investors, or upper management, a business report can make or break opportunities for your business or organization. After all, that's the whole point of writing one—to convince your reader to see things from your perspective and make decisions accordingly.

If you're not sure how to get started, don't worry. This guide will show you how to write a formal business report step by step, complete with tips and examples. Let's get started.

What is a formal business report?

Image Source

A formal business report is a document that presents information or data in a structured, organized way. It's typically used to communicate research findings to decision-makers or organizational stakeholders, such as your manager, colleagues, or clients.

If you're wondering when you might need to write a formal business report, the answer is: pretty much any time you want to convincingly present information or data. This could be when:

  • You're communicating the results of an investigation or analysis you conducted
  • You're trying to make a case for a decision that needs to be made (by providing background information on the topic)
  • You're informing others about changes or trends in your industry to keep them up to date (for instance, if there's an increase in regulation coming down from regulators)
  • You're sharing best practices with your team (based on research, white papers, observations, or case studies)

Components of a business report

Typically, business reports contain three sections: an introduction, body paragraphs (or sections), and a conclusion that provides recommendations for future action. That's the basics of any report, which include a title page, table of contents, and appendices (if needed). Let's take a closer look at each section.

Title page

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The title page is the first page of your report and should include:

  • The title of the report
  • Your name and contact information (as the author)
  • The date the report was completed or submitted
  • The name and contact information of the recipient (if applicable)

Table of contents

If your report is long (5+ pages), you might want to include a table of contents. This will help readers quickly find the information they're looking for instead of having to flip through the entire document.

To create a table of contents, start by looking at the headings and subheadings in your report. Then, list each heading and subheading along with the page number where it appears. Today's word processing software programs can automatically generate a table of contents for you—just be sure to update it if you make any changes to your report.

Summary

Some reports will begin with a summary, which is a brief overview of the main points in the report. This is useful if your reader only has time to skim the report (or if they need to quickly get up to speed on its contents).

If you decide to include a summary, ensure it's no more than a few sentences to a paragraph in length. You can think of it as an executive summary for your report—it should concisely give your reader a general idea of what the rest of the document will cover.

Introduction

The introduction is where you'll set the stage for your report by providing background information on the topic. This could include:

  • The objective of your report
  • The main points you'll be covering
  • Your chosen report structure

Essentially, the introduction is your chance to explain what your reader can expect from the rest of the document. It should be clear and concise—after all, you don't want to lose your reader's attention before you even get to the meat of your report.

Body

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Next comes the body of your report. This is where you'll present the points you want to make in detail. 

Depending on the type of report you're writing, the structure of the body will vary. It could be organized chronologically, by topics, or in another way that makes sense for your project. Some projects require a deep dive into data analysis, while others might be lighter on research.

The important thing to remember is that each section of the body should flow logically from one to the next. You'll want to use headings and subheadings to break up your text and help guide your reader through the information you're presenting. Here are some example headings you might use in a business report:

  • Research Objectives
  • Methods
  • Findings
  • Analysis
  • Graphs

Recommendations

In this section, you'll state your recommendations or suggestions and provide justification for why the company should implement them. Remember to back up your points with data from your research and analysis in earlier sections, and always link your recommendations to the company's goals.

For instance, if your report is about increasing sales, your recommendations might focus on strategies for boosting marketing efforts. The justifications for these recommendations should be based on data that proves that marketing and sales are related (for example, increased marketing leads to more sales).

Conclusion

Next, you'll wrap up your report with a conclusion. This is where you'll summarize the main points of your findings (in the same order as the body) and reiterate your recommendations.

Your conclusion should provide a clear next step for the company (a call-to-action), as well as what will happen if they don't consider your recommendations. Will they miss out on opportunities? Lose market share? Make it clear what's at stake if they don't take action and the potential benefits.

References

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As with any formal document, don't forget to include a references section if you've used any sources in your report. Cite any data, research, or other information you've used.

Appendices

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Finally, you'll include any additional information in the appendix section. This could be:

  • Data sets
  • Charts
  • Graphs
  • Surveys
  • Documents

These are meant to supplement the information in your report and provide additional context or background for your reader.

Formal business report example

If you're still unsure how the final output should look, take a look at this formal business report example. This sample report looks at customer complaints from an automobile company and makes recommendations for improving customer satisfaction.

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How to write a business report

Now that we've gone over the different parts of a formal business report and looked at an example. Let's dig a little deeper into how you can write one yourself. Here are the steps you'll need to take:

1. Create an outline for your report

Like you would with any project, it's important to start by creating an outline for your business report. Don't go straight into research and writing immediately; instead, take some time to think about what you want to achieve with your report. 

What are your objectives? What kind of information do you need to gather? Once you have a good understanding of your goals, you can start mapping out the structure of your report.

That way, you'll organize your thoughts more efficiently and ensure you don't forget any important points. It'll also put things into perspective and help you see the "big picture" of your report. Maybe there are elements you can leave out or streamline if they're not directly related to your objectives, or maybe you need to address some gaps or missing points.

An example outline would look something like this:

  • Introduction (the purpose of the report)
  • Background information (informative context for readers)
  • Problem identification/analysis (what is the problem/challenge being addressed?)
  • Solution identification/recommendation(s) (your recommended solutions and why they're appropriate)
  • Conclusion (a summary of your findings and recommendations, with a call-to-action)

Remember that this is just a general guide—you can (and should) adjust it as needed to fit the specific requirements of your report.

Pro Tip: If you need help putting together an outline, try Copy.ai's Essay Outline tool. It'll help you build a basic structure for your business report in minutes and save you precious time in writing.

2. Check for an in-house format

Before you start writing, checking whether your company has a standard format for formal business reports is important. This will usually be outlined in your company handbook. Alternatively, you can ask the person who's commissioning the report to see if there's a specific format they want you to use.

An established format will help give your report a more professional look. You won't have to start from scratch when putting together the final document.

3. Gather the data and prep your research

Now, it's time to start collecting the information you need for your report. This will involve reading relevant articles and papers, interviewing experts in your field, and contacting companies who have experience with similar issues (if applicable).

It's important to be thorough in your research—you want to ensure you have all the relevant information before you start writing.

To tick this off your list quickly and easily, the most important thing is to identify what your audience is actually looking for. Ask yourself:

  • What kind of information will the reader want to see?
  • How much detail do they need/expect?
  • Is there anything else they should know about this topic or subject?

Answering these questions will help you focus your research and ensure you're on the right track. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but trust us—it'll be worth it in the end. The worst thing is to think you've finished your report only to realize you've left out some crucial information!

4. Craft your executive summary

This is probably the most important part of your report. Why? Because it's what readers will see first, it'll determine whether or not they actually continue reading. So you need to make sure it's clear, concise, and engaging—everything a good executive summary should be. And let's not forget short!

The executive summary describes the report in as few words as possible. Use strong verbs and active language to get your point across. Make sure you include the most important information: the problem being addressed, why it's important, your recommendation(s), and why those are the best solution(s).

For instance, let's say you're writing a report on customer complaints about your product packaging. Your executive summary might look something like this:

"Our company has seen increased customer complaints regarding our product's packaging design. As a result, we conducted a study to identify the root cause of the problem and propose a solution. Our findings indicate that the current packaging design is confusing and difficult to open, causing customer frustration. We recommend switching to a more user-friendly design that will be easier to open and reduce the number of customer complaints."

See how that gives a brief overview of the issue, the research conducted, and the proposed solution. That's what you're aiming for with your executive summary.

5. Format your main sections

After you've written your executive summary, it's time to move on to the rest of your report. The main sections will depend on the type of report you're writing, but they should all be clearly labeled and easy to read using headings and subheadings.

As mentioned earlier, the three main sections of a business report are the introduction, body, and conclusion. Here's a quick overview of what each section should include:

  • The introduction: This is where you'll set the scene for the rest of the report by providing an overview of the report's main points and purpose.
  • The body: This is the meat of your report, and it's where you'll present all the information you've gathered to support your findings and recommendations. Be sure to organize it in a way that makes sense and is easy to follow.
  • The conclusion: This is where you'll summarize the main points of your report and stress the importance of your findings or recommendations.

No matter how many sections or subsections your report has, make sure each one flows smoothly into the next. You want your readers to follow along easily without getting lost or confused. Also, take care of too much jargon or technical language—simple is always better for business reports.

6. Add a strong conclusion and appendix

The conclusion is just as important as the executive summary, so don't skimp on it! You want to give your readers a strong sense of what your report was about and why it matters. When done right, it'll leave them with a lasting impression and entice them to take further action.

However, avoid using complex language, repeating yourself too much, or giving away too much information, as that will dilute the impact of your findings. Ensure all major findings are included so readers don't needlessly slog through portions of the report they already know about. Additionally, you should always provide a clear call to action for what you want the reader to do next.

You might also want to include an appendix at the end of your report, which is a great way to include additional information or data that supports your findings without taking up space in the main body of the report. This is especially useful if you have a lot of data or charts and graphs that would make the report cumbersome.

It also works well for including information that might interest some readers but not others, such as the detailed methodology used in your research. That way, people interested in that sort of thing can easily find it, while those who aren't can skip over it without having to wade through irrelevant information.

7. Have someone else proofread your final draft

Finally, once you've written, edited, and formatted your report perfectly, it's time to have someone else look at it. This is an important step that should never be skipped, as it's all too easy to miss your own mistakes.

When choosing someone to proofread your work, pick someone who is detail-oriented and has a good eye for grammar and spelling. It might sound like overkill, but if there are any typos or grammatical errors in your final draft, it will be a huge distraction from your overall message and make readers question whether they can trust anything else in the report.

If possible, have someone who wasn't involved in writing the report read it over, as they'll be able to provide a more objective perspective, especially on clarity. Your readers should be able to understand what you're trying to say without too much effort or outside research, so if your proofreader is struggling, that's a sign that something needs to be rewritten or clarified.

Lastly, you want to ensure that all the information you present is accurate and up to date. This might require doing additional research or checking your data against other sources. 

Suppose you find any statements that don't seem factual enough or don't support other details provided earlier on in the document. In that case, you might have written something incorrectly or overlooked some crucial data when putting your report together. That's when it's time to go back and make the necessary changes before calling it quits.

In conclusion

Writing a formal business report isn't an easy task. Still, take the time to learn the proper format and put in the effort to gather accurate and reliable information. You'll be able to produce a professional, impressive, and useful document. It gets easier with practice, so don't be discouraged if your first few attempts aren't perfect. Just keep at it, and you'll eventually get the hang of it!

Also, don't forget that Copy.ai can help you with any writing project, big or small. From outlines to finished drafts, their artificial intelligence writing generators will help you every step of the way. So if you ever need a little help or inspiration, be sure to give it a try!

How To
13 min

Business Report Writing - Step-By-Step (With Examples)

Reem Abouemera
October 1, 2022

When it comes to business, a lot is riding on your reports. Whether presenting to clients, investors, or upper management, a business report can make or break opportunities for your business or organization. After all, that's the whole point of writing one—to convince your reader to see things from your perspective and make decisions accordingly.

If you're not sure how to get started, don't worry. This guide will show you how to write a formal business report step by step, complete with tips and examples. Let's get started.

What is a formal business report?

Image Source

A formal business report is a document that presents information or data in a structured, organized way. It's typically used to communicate research findings to decision-makers or organizational stakeholders, such as your manager, colleagues, or clients.

If you're wondering when you might need to write a formal business report, the answer is: pretty much any time you want to convincingly present information or data. This could be when:

  • You're communicating the results of an investigation or analysis you conducted
  • You're trying to make a case for a decision that needs to be made (by providing background information on the topic)
  • You're informing others about changes or trends in your industry to keep them up to date (for instance, if there's an increase in regulation coming down from regulators)
  • You're sharing best practices with your team (based on research, white papers, observations, or case studies)

Components of a business report

Typically, business reports contain three sections: an introduction, body paragraphs (or sections), and a conclusion that provides recommendations for future action. That's the basics of any report, which include a title page, table of contents, and appendices (if needed). Let's take a closer look at each section.

Title page

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The title page is the first page of your report and should include:

  • The title of the report
  • Your name and contact information (as the author)
  • The date the report was completed or submitted
  • The name and contact information of the recipient (if applicable)

Table of contents

If your report is long (5+ pages), you might want to include a table of contents. This will help readers quickly find the information they're looking for instead of having to flip through the entire document.

To create a table of contents, start by looking at the headings and subheadings in your report. Then, list each heading and subheading along with the page number where it appears. Today's word processing software programs can automatically generate a table of contents for you—just be sure to update it if you make any changes to your report.

Summary

Some reports will begin with a summary, which is a brief overview of the main points in the report. This is useful if your reader only has time to skim the report (or if they need to quickly get up to speed on its contents).

If you decide to include a summary, ensure it's no more than a few sentences to a paragraph in length. You can think of it as an executive summary for your report—it should concisely give your reader a general idea of what the rest of the document will cover.

Introduction

The introduction is where you'll set the stage for your report by providing background information on the topic. This could include:

  • The objective of your report
  • The main points you'll be covering
  • Your chosen report structure

Essentially, the introduction is your chance to explain what your reader can expect from the rest of the document. It should be clear and concise—after all, you don't want to lose your reader's attention before you even get to the meat of your report.

Body

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Next comes the body of your report. This is where you'll present the points you want to make in detail. 

Depending on the type of report you're writing, the structure of the body will vary. It could be organized chronologically, by topics, or in another way that makes sense for your project. Some projects require a deep dive into data analysis, while others might be lighter on research.

The important thing to remember is that each section of the body should flow logically from one to the next. You'll want to use headings and subheadings to break up your text and help guide your reader through the information you're presenting. Here are some example headings you might use in a business report:

  • Research Objectives
  • Methods
  • Findings
  • Analysis
  • Graphs

Recommendations

In this section, you'll state your recommendations or suggestions and provide justification for why the company should implement them. Remember to back up your points with data from your research and analysis in earlier sections, and always link your recommendations to the company's goals.

For instance, if your report is about increasing sales, your recommendations might focus on strategies for boosting marketing efforts. The justifications for these recommendations should be based on data that proves that marketing and sales are related (for example, increased marketing leads to more sales).

Conclusion

Next, you'll wrap up your report with a conclusion. This is where you'll summarize the main points of your findings (in the same order as the body) and reiterate your recommendations.

Your conclusion should provide a clear next step for the company (a call-to-action), as well as what will happen if they don't consider your recommendations. Will they miss out on opportunities? Lose market share? Make it clear what's at stake if they don't take action and the potential benefits.

References

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As with any formal document, don't forget to include a references section if you've used any sources in your report. Cite any data, research, or other information you've used.

Appendices

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Finally, you'll include any additional information in the appendix section. This could be:

  • Data sets
  • Charts
  • Graphs
  • Surveys
  • Documents

These are meant to supplement the information in your report and provide additional context or background for your reader.

Formal business report example

If you're still unsure how the final output should look, take a look at this formal business report example. This sample report looks at customer complaints from an automobile company and makes recommendations for improving customer satisfaction.

Image Source

How to write a business report

Now that we've gone over the different parts of a formal business report and looked at an example. Let's dig a little deeper into how you can write one yourself. Here are the steps you'll need to take:

1. Create an outline for your report

Like you would with any project, it's important to start by creating an outline for your business report. Don't go straight into research and writing immediately; instead, take some time to think about what you want to achieve with your report. 

What are your objectives? What kind of information do you need to gather? Once you have a good understanding of your goals, you can start mapping out the structure of your report.

That way, you'll organize your thoughts more efficiently and ensure you don't forget any important points. It'll also put things into perspective and help you see the "big picture" of your report. Maybe there are elements you can leave out or streamline if they're not directly related to your objectives, or maybe you need to address some gaps or missing points.

An example outline would look something like this:

  • Introduction (the purpose of the report)
  • Background information (informative context for readers)
  • Problem identification/analysis (what is the problem/challenge being addressed?)
  • Solution identification/recommendation(s) (your recommended solutions and why they're appropriate)
  • Conclusion (a summary of your findings and recommendations, with a call-to-action)

Remember that this is just a general guide—you can (and should) adjust it as needed to fit the specific requirements of your report.

Pro Tip: If you need help putting together an outline, try Copy.ai's Essay Outline tool. It'll help you build a basic structure for your business report in minutes and save you precious time in writing.

2. Check for an in-house format

Before you start writing, checking whether your company has a standard format for formal business reports is important. This will usually be outlined in your company handbook. Alternatively, you can ask the person who's commissioning the report to see if there's a specific format they want you to use.

An established format will help give your report a more professional look. You won't have to start from scratch when putting together the final document.

3. Gather the data and prep your research

Now, it's time to start collecting the information you need for your report. This will involve reading relevant articles and papers, interviewing experts in your field, and contacting companies who have experience with similar issues (if applicable).

It's important to be thorough in your research—you want to ensure you have all the relevant information before you start writing.

To tick this off your list quickly and easily, the most important thing is to identify what your audience is actually looking for. Ask yourself:

  • What kind of information will the reader want to see?
  • How much detail do they need/expect?
  • Is there anything else they should know about this topic or subject?

Answering these questions will help you focus your research and ensure you're on the right track. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but trust us—it'll be worth it in the end. The worst thing is to think you've finished your report only to realize you've left out some crucial information!

4. Craft your executive summary

This is probably the most important part of your report. Why? Because it's what readers will see first, it'll determine whether or not they actually continue reading. So you need to make sure it's clear, concise, and engaging—everything a good executive summary should be. And let's not forget short!

The executive summary describes the report in as few words as possible. Use strong verbs and active language to get your point across. Make sure you include the most important information: the problem being addressed, why it's important, your recommendation(s), and why those are the best solution(s).

For instance, let's say you're writing a report on customer complaints about your product packaging. Your executive summary might look something like this:

"Our company has seen increased customer complaints regarding our product's packaging design. As a result, we conducted a study to identify the root cause of the problem and propose a solution. Our findings indicate that the current packaging design is confusing and difficult to open, causing customer frustration. We recommend switching to a more user-friendly design that will be easier to open and reduce the number of customer complaints."

See how that gives a brief overview of the issue, the research conducted, and the proposed solution. That's what you're aiming for with your executive summary.

5. Format your main sections

After you've written your executive summary, it's time to move on to the rest of your report. The main sections will depend on the type of report you're writing, but they should all be clearly labeled and easy to read using headings and subheadings.

As mentioned earlier, the three main sections of a business report are the introduction, body, and conclusion. Here's a quick overview of what each section should include:

  • The introduction: This is where you'll set the scene for the rest of the report by providing an overview of the report's main points and purpose.
  • The body: This is the meat of your report, and it's where you'll present all the information you've gathered to support your findings and recommendations. Be sure to organize it in a way that makes sense and is easy to follow.
  • The conclusion: This is where you'll summarize the main points of your report and stress the importance of your findings or recommendations.

No matter how many sections or subsections your report has, make sure each one flows smoothly into the next. You want your readers to follow along easily without getting lost or confused. Also, take care of too much jargon or technical language—simple is always better for business reports.

6. Add a strong conclusion and appendix

The conclusion is just as important as the executive summary, so don't skimp on it! You want to give your readers a strong sense of what your report was about and why it matters. When done right, it'll leave them with a lasting impression and entice them to take further action.

However, avoid using complex language, repeating yourself too much, or giving away too much information, as that will dilute the impact of your findings. Ensure all major findings are included so readers don't needlessly slog through portions of the report they already know about. Additionally, you should always provide a clear call to action for what you want the reader to do next.

You might also want to include an appendix at the end of your report, which is a great way to include additional information or data that supports your findings without taking up space in the main body of the report. This is especially useful if you have a lot of data or charts and graphs that would make the report cumbersome.

It also works well for including information that might interest some readers but not others, such as the detailed methodology used in your research. That way, people interested in that sort of thing can easily find it, while those who aren't can skip over it without having to wade through irrelevant information.

7. Have someone else proofread your final draft

Finally, once you've written, edited, and formatted your report perfectly, it's time to have someone else look at it. This is an important step that should never be skipped, as it's all too easy to miss your own mistakes.

When choosing someone to proofread your work, pick someone who is detail-oriented and has a good eye for grammar and spelling. It might sound like overkill, but if there are any typos or grammatical errors in your final draft, it will be a huge distraction from your overall message and make readers question whether they can trust anything else in the report.

If possible, have someone who wasn't involved in writing the report read it over, as they'll be able to provide a more objective perspective, especially on clarity. Your readers should be able to understand what you're trying to say without too much effort or outside research, so if your proofreader is struggling, that's a sign that something needs to be rewritten or clarified.

Lastly, you want to ensure that all the information you present is accurate and up to date. This might require doing additional research or checking your data against other sources. 

Suppose you find any statements that don't seem factual enough or don't support other details provided earlier on in the document. In that case, you might have written something incorrectly or overlooked some crucial data when putting your report together. That's when it's time to go back and make the necessary changes before calling it quits.

In conclusion

Writing a formal business report isn't an easy task. Still, take the time to learn the proper format and put in the effort to gather accurate and reliable information. You'll be able to produce a professional, impressive, and useful document. It gets easier with practice, so don't be discouraged if your first few attempts aren't perfect. Just keep at it, and you'll eventually get the hang of it!

Also, don't forget that Copy.ai can help you with any writing project, big or small. From outlines to finished drafts, their artificial intelligence writing generators will help you every step of the way. So if you ever need a little help or inspiration, be sure to give it a try!

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