What Are Business and Technical Reports?

Glossary of grammatical and rhetorical terms

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A report is a document that presents information in an organized format for a specific audience and purpose. Although summaries of reports may be delivered orally, complete reports are almost always in the form of written documents.

In "Contemporary Business Reports," Kuiper and Clippinger define business reports as "organized, objective presentations of observations, experiences, or facts used in the decision-making process."

Sharma and Mohan define a technical report as "a written statement of the facts of a situation, project, process or test; how these facts were ascertained; their significance; the conclusions that have been drawn from them; and [in some cases] the recommendations that are being made" in "Business Correspondence and Report Writing."

Types of reports include memos, minutes, lab reports, book reports, progress reports, justification reports, compliance reports, annual reports, and policies and procedures.

Observations

H. Dan O'Hair, James S. O'Rourke, and Mary John O'Hair, "Business Communication: A Framework for Success"

"Reports can fulfill four different, and sometimes related, functions. They can be used as controls to ensure that all departments are functioning properly, to give information, to provide an analysis, and to persuade others to act."

Characteristics of Effective Reports

Shirley Kuiper and Dorinda Clippinger, "Contemporary Business Reports"

"Effective reports are understood by the reader as the writer intended, and they influence the reader to act as the writer desired. The writer's objectives are most likely to be achieved if they correspond with the needs and objectives of the reader. An effective report is empathetic, accurate, complete, concise, and clear. Above all, an effective report presents information ethically."

Warren Buffet on Communicating With an Audience

Warren Buffet, Foreword to "A Plain English Handbook"

"One unoriginal but useful tip: Write with a specific person in mind. When writing Berkshire Hathaway's annual report, I pretend that I'm talking to my sisters. I have no trouble picturing them: though highly intelligent they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don't need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform."

Long and Short Reports

John M. Lannon, "Technical Communication"

"In the professional world, decision-makers rely on two broad types of reports: Some reports focus primarily on information ('what we're doing now,' 'what we did last month,' 'what our customer survey found,' 'what went on at the department meeting'). But beyond merely providing information, many reports also include analysis ('what this information means for us,' 'what courses of action should be considered,' 'what we recommend, and why').

"For every long (formal) report, countless short (informal) reports lead to informed decisions on matters as diverse as the most comfortable office chairs to buy to the best recruit to hire for management training. Unlike long reports, most short reports require no extended planning, are quickly prepared, contain little or no background information, and have no front or end matter (title page, table of contents, glossary, etc). But despite their conciseness, short reports do provide the information and analysis that readers need."

Sources

Kuiper, Shirley. "Contemporary Business Reports." Dorinda Clippinger, 5th Edition, Cengage Learning, February 6, 2012.

Lannon, John M. "Technical Communication." Laura J. Gurak, 14th Edition, Pearson, January 14, 2017.

Office of Investor Education and Assistance. "A Plain English Handbook." U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, August 1998, Washington, D.C.

O'Hair, Dan. "Business Communication: A Framework for Success." James S. O'Rourke, Mary John O'Hair, 1st Edition, Cengage Learning, April 7, 2000.

Sharma. "Business Correspondence And Report Writing." 5th Edition, Mc Graw Hill India, July 1, 2017.