Report Definition and Types

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Businesswoman writing in book at desk.
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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.

Kuiper and Clippinger define business reports as "organized, objective presentations of observations, experiences, or facts used in the decision-making process"
(Contemporary Business Reports, 2013).

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"
(Business Correspondence and Report Writing, 2002).

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

Etymology: From the Latin, "carry"


  • "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."
    (H. Dan O'Hair, James S. O'Rourke, and Mary John O'Hair, Business Communication: A Framework for Success. South-Western College Publishing, 2001)

Characteristics of Effective 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."
    (Shirley Kuiper and Dorinda Clippinger, Contemporary Business Reports, 5th ed. South-Western, Cengage, 2013)

Warren Buffet on Communicating With an Audience

  • "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."
    (Warren Buffet, Foreword to A Plain English Handbook [pdf]. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 1998)

Long and Short Reports

  • "In the professional world, decision makers rely on two broad types of report: 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 or 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."
    (John M. Lannon, Technical Communication. Pearson, 2006)