Business reports have more in common with cakes than you might think.
If they both look professionally made (written) and have great ingredients (content), it’s hard to say no.
Carefully-made cakes and business reports can be a joy to consume.
And whether you need to write this business report for your job or as part of a language exam, it’s a fantastic opportunity to impress.
By paying attention to both the words in your report and the presentation (how it looks), you can prove that you are a good writer to your boss or to the examiner grading your paper.
So we are going to help you write an irresistible business report by providing six simple guidelines.
6 Tips to Write Irresistible Business Reports in English
1. Understand What Reports Are For
Business reports aren’t the same as sending an email or writing a formal letter. What are they for? A good business report describes a present or past situation in an objective way. Objective means that the report states facts, not an opinion.
It is called a “report” because it “reports on” something. Pay attention—sometimes you may be asked to give your own opinions and recommendations. However, you should do this in just one section of the report. Remember, a report is not an essay. It is not about what you think, it is about an objective situation which you need to present clearly.
Whoever the reader is, they probably want to focus on the facts, not on your interpretation of the facts. If the reader is your boss, this is a good chance for you to impress with your level of objective analysis. If the reader is the examiner grading your paper, your goal is to prove that you have the language skills to pass the test.
To keep the purpose of the report in mind, make a plan before you start writing. If you don’t have the time to write a full draft, try to focus on the main ideas you need to include.
In an exam, you are given a task and you must make sure you include information about all the sections of the task. In real life, you also need to follow the instructions of the person having you write the report.
2. Keep the Tone Neutral
Since the reader is probably somebody higher up, so you should try to use a neutral tone, maybe even a formal one. Here are two language tricks you can use to help achieve a formal tone.
Use the passive voice to shift focus from the person performing the action to the action itself. For example:
Active: The managers need to make changes in their management style.
Passive: Changes in management style need to be made.
Here, the passive voice is used to keep the tone impersonal and therefore more formal. We don’t want to focus on the person performing the action (the person who needs to make the changes). Instead, the passive voice focuses on the action (the fact that changes need to be made).
Use compound nouns to help achieve a formal, business-like tone. This will also help to keep your writing clear and to the point. For example:
- customer service manager (instead of saying “manager responsible for the services provided to customers”)
- customer satisfaction (rather than “the satisfaction which customers feel”)
- complaints procedure (not “procedure for dealing with complaints”)
3. Make It Reader-friendly
Here are some formatting tips that will make your business report easier to read.
Include a standard top section
This is a section that most people forget about when writing a report, especially if they write it on paper (not on a computer) as part of an exam. The standard top section is provided automatically when you write an email.
It is helpful to include a top section in reports, as well as in proposals and memos, because the reader sees at a glance who the report is addressed to, who wrote it, when it was written and what it is about.
To: (Provide the name of the person who is going to read the report. If you don’t know the name, you can write the position, e.g. the sales manager.)
From: ([Write your name.)
Date: (Write the date. Just stick to month and day and you can’t go wrong, e.g. December 9. Don’t forget months are capitalized in English.)
Subject: (Write a concise and helpful title for your report, so the reader quickly understands what the report is about.)
When somebody reads a report as part of their job, they usually want to be able to find information as fast as possible. You can help them do that by using headings. Headings are like subtitles of the different sections of your report. They summarize the main ideas of a section.
For example, in this very blog post, “Include a standard top section,” “Use headings” and “Use bullet points” are subheadings which make the post easier to read.
Here are some example headings you can use in your business report:
- Terms of reference (Why the report was written.)
- Procedure (How you found out what had happened.)
- Findings (What you discovered.)
- Conclusions (A summary of the information you presented.)
- Recommendations (What you suggest the reader should do. This is the only part in which you can be more subjective and present your own opinions.)
Use bullet points
Use bullet points to help you structure the information more clearly.
You may decide to use bullet points when you have lists of items. Readers love them because bullet points help with reading speed.
Make sure your bullet points follow the same grammatical structure. For instance, you may have something like:
I therefore recommend:
- Organizing twice weekly get-togethers
- Introducing teamwork whenever possible
- Creating a bonus scheme to reward high-performing employees
In the above example, notice how all the verbs in the bullet points follow the same grammatical structure (“-ing” form). We would not write, for example, “that we should introduce teamwork whenever possible” for the second bullet, because that would break the -ing pattern.
However, don’t overuse bullet points—especially in writing exams, where you need to prove your ability to use a variety of complex grammatical structures.
If you want to become a master of English writing and create strong written messages, then you might want to consider getting a special resource devoted to the topic of writing in English. Inklyo is a perfect resource for any English student who wants to improve their writing.
It has both books and courses that can help you learn all about powerful and professional English writing.
4. Master Business Vocabulary and Grammar
Good language makes a good impression, whether you are writing a report as part of your job, or as part of an exam.
Try to use a wide range of vocabulary to prove you have a good level of English. You can improve your vocabulary by reading business articles.
The best way to really learn these new words is to use them, so whenever you come across a new word or expression, write it down and make your own sentences with it.
When it comes to grammar, you should try to use more complex grammatical structures like “if” clauses. For example, in the recommendations section, you could include something like:
If the company adopted a more modern corporate culture, the employees would feel more valued.
But don’t forget about clarity! Sometimes really long and complex sentences are difficult to read. If it is not clear to you, it is probably not clear to the reader.
English grammar is a complex and sometimes confusing topic, so do not hesitate to ask for help when learning English grammar and using it in your business writing.
If you are currently in the United States, then you can use Wyzant to find an English grammar tutor or an English writing tutor near you. That is correct—there are tutors just for grammar and writing, and native English speakers need them too!
5. Watch Out for Spelling
Spellcheck may seem like the best invention ever when you are writing reports as part of your job. Remember that spellcheck tools can’t find all mistakes, though.
Also, you may want to use special sites that help check spelling—but you can’t use them in exams!
What you can do, however, is avoid using words if you are not sure of their spelling. You want to show your strengths, not your weaknesses. Naturally, when you prepare for the exam, you are going to stop and check the correct spelling in a dictionary. But during the exam, use a synonym if you’re unsure.
6. Proofread to Perfection
Set aside a few good minutes to proofread what you wrote once you’ve finished your report. Never hand in a report before you’ve had the chance to proofread it at least twice.
Why twice? Because it is difficult to focus on more than one type of mistake at a time. You should proofread it once for grammar and vocabulary mistakes, and once for spelling mistakes.
Watch out for double subjects (e.g. “A job description it is difficult to write” — Incorrect), words that don’t fit into the context and words that are similar to words in your native language, but spelled differently.
Installing Grammarly on your web browser will help you catch many, many grammar mistakes in your English writing. It highlights mistakes and suggests corrections for you. You can use this while writing anything from reports to emails.
We know that some business reports are incredibly important to your company, to your clients and to your career. When you have an important business report that needs to be perfect and polished, we highly recommend that you contact Proofreading Services, an online team of professional editors with tons of knowledge and experience. They offer combined proofreading and editing for over 5,000 clients in 93 countries, and they give an exclusive discount to FluentU readers. All you need is our secret password: FLUENTU15. This code entitles you to 15% off at ProofreadingServices.com!
Writing a really good business report is worth every minute. It is written proof that you understand the situation/topic, and can logically share that information with others.
It can help you create a good impression of both your writing skills and your business competence. Write your best and you will be seen as the best!
Ana Maria Hopartean teaches English as a foreign language at university level in Romania. She designed TOEFL and Cambridge exam preparation courses. She has a PhD in Psychology applied to language learning and her main focus is trying to help adult learners cope with anxiety while learning a foreign language.