4 Tips to Writing Excellent Business Reports

Business memos and reports, like business writing of any kind, are largely purpose-driven - there's some new idea to propose or important results to convey. The most successful way to deliver purpose-driven material is through clear and concise writing. Think carefully about the elements that need to go into creating sharply-written, persuasive, and even-toned business writing. Follow these four tips on how to write a memo or report.

Define Your Purpose

Identify your purpose before you start writing your memo or report. It will save you lots of time rewriting later on and prevent a sense of aimlessness from creeping into your content.

Use the strategies of investigative writing to get the ball rolling. Answer the questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Are you addressing a quality assurance team about a change in a project deadline or coworkers about an office party announcement? Why is the subject of your memo or report important? If you're addressing an issue, how do you intend to solve it? What is your call to action - how do you want readers to respond? Once you've nailed down some solid responses, you're ready to fill in the blanks.

Use Concise, Active, Engaging Language

When you're writing a business memo, focus on getting the point across quickly without sacrificing a professional tone. Be clear and concise. Don't stray from your point and don't burden the text with dense language or unnecessary jargon. Use simple language, but don't be boring either. Keep your content engaging by using active sentences. Watch for passive or wordy expressions, like "it might be very helpful to check your inbox often." Just say, "Check your inbox often."

Organize Your Ideas for Clarity and Coherence

Your business report or memo needs to represent a logical progression of thought to make it easy to read and all the important details easy to grasp. Make an outline for yourself that can help you create a clear structure to follow.

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  • Outlining Guide: Begin with an introductory section, and end with a concluding section. Write a brief description for each topic or title in your outline to help you flesh out your thoughts and rearrange the structure of the outline as needed. A general guide to follow is: 1. Introduction or Background, 2. Purpose, 3. Investigation or Explanation, 4. Results and/or Conclusion, and 5. Suggestions for Action or Description of an Action.
  • Example of a Memo Outline: Look at this sample outline for a memo about a change in payroll deadlines: 1. Give background of issue with former payroll dates, 2. State purpose of memo: to inform employees a change has been made, 3. Describe what this change will mean or how it may affect other office schedules, 4. Affirm that the change will make improvements. 5. Invite employees to send any questions or concerns.
  • A Word on Formatting: The format of a document is a part of its presentation. Your office likely has a preferred formatting style for different types of business documents. Adhere to those specifications. Sometimes they can help organize the structure and flow of your ideas.

Edit, Proofread; Do It Again

Coming up with what you want to say is just a small percentage of writing. Editing and proofreading is most of the work. When you've finished writing your memo report, it's time to cut away everything that doesn't serve the purpose of the content. Reread your writing often, ideally after every significant edit, and read it out loud. It's easier to catch mistakes when you can actually hear them. Step away from your report and come back an hour, or several hours, later. You'll see it with a fresh eye and likely notice something you didn't before.

Following these tips should give you an inspiring nudge in the right direction; go write a business memo that sells.