Appendix A: Common Business Writing Genres


Learning Objectives

  1. Know the basic components of a report
  2. Understand the different types of reports and when to use them
  3. Write a basic report

Reports are documents designed to record and convey information to the reader. Reports are part of any business or organization; from credit reports to police reports, they serve to document specific information for specific audiences, goals, or functions. Reports should be made for making decisions or persuasion, investigative purposes, evaluations, and updates and progress details (Forrest, 16).

BIG Writing

The Journal of Applied Corporate Finance published an article on BIG writing. BIG is an acronym for a writing technique that stands for “Business is Good”. BIG writing is “the fundamental discipline of business writing. It recognizes that every organization has a few—say, three to five—core messages that form the basis for all of its communication” (Sheldon & Willett, 100). When writing reports, use the BIG writing method. This means that each report you write should be specific to your organization and relevant. Reports should be kept simple and memorable and always reflect your company values.

There are three fundamental business (BIG) writing rules to keep in mind when writing reports:

  1. Use the appropriate tone/voice for your audience – cater to your readers knowledge and language.
  2. Put the key message at the beginning – getting to the point shows you respect your audience and their time
  3. Keep it simple – eliminate fluff and unnecessary details

How to Write a Report

Report writing is not as overwhelming when you break it down into manageable steps. There are 6 phases of report writing, as defined by training and development consultant, Clare Forrest.

Phase 1

The preliminary phase of report writing begins with less writing and more critical thinking. Your should be defining your objectives and readership (Forrest, 16). This means you need to determine why you are writing the report and who you are writing it for.

Phase 2

This phase is about researching your data. Gather information and prepare it for the next phase (Forrest, 16).

Phase 3

Organize your data and make sense of it all. At this point, a clear path should be forming.

Phase 4

Structure your entire report. You will be using the 10 common elements of organizing your report from later in this chapter.

Phase 5

Write the report. Using BIG writing techniques, write your report.

Phase 6

Proofread, use proper grammar, and ensure information accuracy.

Types of Reports and When to Use Them

Reports come in all sizes, but are typically longer than a page and somewhat shorter than a book. The type of report depends on its function. The function of the report is its essential purpose, often indicated in the thesis or purpose statement. The function will also influence the types of visual content or visual aids, representing words, numbers, and their relationships to the central purpose in graphic, representational ways that are easy for the reader to understand. Use BIG writing in order to choose the report type and content that best represents your business.

Informational Report

An informational report informs or instructs and presents details of events, activities, individuals, or conditions without analysis. An example of this type of “just the facts” report is a police accident report. The report will note the time, date, place, contributing factors like weather, and identification information for the drivers involved in an automobile accident. It does not establish fault or include judgmental statements. You should not see “Driver was falling down drunk” in a police accident report. Instead, you would see “Driver failed sobriety tests and breathalyzer test and was transported to the station for a blood sample.” The police officer is not a trained medical doctor and is therefore not licensed to make definitive diagnoses, but can collect and present relevant information that may contribute to that diagnosis.

Analytical Report

An analytical report presents information with a comprehensive analysis to solve problems, demonstrate relationships, or make recommendations. An example of this report may be a field report by a Center for Disease Control (CDC) physician from the site of an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, noting symptoms, disease progression, steps taken to arrest the spread of the disease, and to make recommendations on the treatment and quarantine of subjects.

Table 12.2 Types of Reports and Their Functions
Type Function
1. Laboratory Report Communicate the procedures and results of laboratory activities
2. Research Report Study problems scientifically by developing hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data, and indicating findings or conclusions
3. Field Study Report Describe one-time events, such as trips, conferences, seminars, as well as reports from branch offices, industrial and manufacturing plants
4. Progress Report Monitor and control production, sales, shipping, service, or related business process
5. Technical Report Communication process and product from a technical perspective
6. Financial Report Communication status and trends from a finance perspective
7. Case Study Represent, analyze, and present lessons learned from a specific case or example
8. Needs Assessment Report Assess the need for a service or product
9. Comparative Advantage Report Discuss competing products or services with an analysis of relative advantages and disadvantages
10. Feasibility Study Analyze problems and predict whether current solutions or alternatives will be practical, advisable, or produced the desired outcome(s)
11. Instruction Manuals Communicate step-by-step instructions on the use of a product or service
12. Compliance Report Document and indicate the extent to which a product or service is within established compliance parameters or standards
13. Cost-Benefit Analysis Report Communicate costs and benefits of products or services.
14. Decision Report Make recommendations to management and become tools to solve problems and make decisions
15. Benchmark Report Establish criteria and evaluate alternatives by measuring against the establish benchmark criteria
16. Examination Report Report or record data obtained from an examination of an item or conditions, including accidents and natural disasters
17. Physical Description report Describe the physical characteristics of a machine, a device, or object
18. Literature Review Present summaries of the information available on a given subject

Organizing a Report

There are 10 common elements for to a business report. Yours could be varied and more detailed, but may include these pages, in order:

  1. Cover: Like the cover of a book, sometimes a picture, image, or logo is featured to introduce the topic to the reader.
  2. Title Fly: This optional page includes the title only.
  3. Title Page: This includes the label, report, features title, author, affiliation, date, and sometimes for whom the report was prepared.
  4. Table of Contents: A list of the main parts of the report and their respective page numbers
  5. Abstract: An Informational abstract highlights the topic, methods, data, and results. Descriptive abstracts contain all of the informational abstract without statements of conclusion or recommendations.
  6. Introduction: Introduces the topic of the report
  7. Body: Includes background, methodology, analysis, and recommendations
  8. Conclusion: Concise presentation of findings
  9. References: Bibliography or Works Cited
  10. Appendix: Related supporting materials

Key Takeaway

Just like when writing a cover letter or résumé, you should keep your perspective audience in mind. Your information should be accurate, complete, and organized. Keep your reports simple and effective using BIG writing techniques and the 6 phases for report writing.


  1. Find an annual report for a business you would like to learn more about. Review it with the previous reading in mind and provide examples. Share and compare with classmates.
  2. Write a report on a trend in business that you’ve observed, and highlight at least the main finding. For example, from the rising cost of textbooks to the online approach to course content, textbooks are a significant issue for students. Draw from your experience as you bring together sources of information to illustrate a trend. Share and compare with classmates.


Bovee, C., & Thill, J. (2010). Business communication essentials: A skills-based approach to vital business English (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Sheldon, M., & Willett, J. (2008). BIG writing: The fundamental discipline of business writing. Journal  of Applied Corporate Finance, 20(3), 100-106. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6622.2008.00197.x

Forrest, C. (2004). Report writing: A tried, tested and successful approach. Training Journal, , 16.


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