Chapter 17: Writing Reports



Writing Reports

Good reports deliver. They deliver information and ideas that people need in order to complete projects, understand developments, evaluate outcomes, and advance the company’s goals.

Specifically, reports can

  • answer questions about what’s happening in the company so that readers can check results, monitor progress, keep work on track, evaluate options, and make decisions.

  • get to the point quickly with a factual, no-nonsense style.

  • range from two pages to hundreds of pages.

  • be presented as memos, letters, filled-out forms, online documents, or bound documents.

In this chapter


Guidelines Reports

Your goal is to provide clear, accurate information and analysis about an incident, a time period, a project, a trip, or another business activity.

  1. Plan: (Ideas and Organization)

    • Know your purpose: Is it to supply information only, or to share conclusions as well? What outcome do you want?

    • Know your readers: What are their needs? What is their knowledge of the topic and expected use of the report? What will be their likely response? Do different readers have different needs?

    • Consider the big picture: Why is the report important? What effects might it have within and beyond your organization?

    Prepare to draft.

    • Carefully study the topic and gather accurate data.

    • Review previous reports or related documents. Consult with colleagues and experts as needed.

    • Outline your report using an appropriate method of organization.

  2. Draft: (Ideas, Organization, and Voice)

    Opening Introduce the topic and provide a context. To be direct, summarize key points; to be indirect, exclude the summary and simply give appropriate background information.

    Middle Supply, organize, and explain your findings, including all essential details.

    Closing Offer conclusions and, if expected, recommendations.

  3. Revise: (Ideas, Organization, Voice, Words, and Sentences)

    • Have you supplied the facts objectively?

    • Have you used effective transitions and summaries?

    • Is your tone businesslike, but not stuffy or impersonal?

    • Do you have a natural, condensed style: clear words and smooth sentences.

  4. Edit: (Conventions and Design)

    • Have you checked grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics?

    • Have you checked headings, lists, and numbering?

    • Have you checked use of graphics, white space, boldface type, and color?

“This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.”

—Winston Churchill


Organizing Reports

Organized reports deliver information in manageable pieces. You can organize your reports by following the three-part structure outlined below.


  • Label the report with a title, your name, your reader’s name, the date, a subject line indicating the topic, and any identifying information such as a reference number.

  • Introduce the report’s purpose, provide background information, and preview topics covered.

  • Summarize your main points, conclusions, and recommendations if you want to be direct.


Organize findings according to one or more of these patterns:

  • Time—in a step-by-step sequence.

  • Space location—from top to bottom, left to right, near to far.

  • Order of importance—from most to least, or least to most.

  • Categories—by similarities and differences.

  • Alphabetical order—by key terms.

  • Cause-effect—by examining the forces that brought about a result or examining the results of a specific force.

  • Compare-contrast—by weighing and balancing alternatives against each other.

  • Hypothesis testing—by suggesting possible conclusions, testing each, and selecting the best one.

Note: Present your data with the help of headings, lists, tables, spreadsheets, and other graphics.


  • For an informative report, summarize the main points.

  • For an analytical report, supply conclusions.

  • For a persuasive report, include recommendations.


Writing Incident Reports

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Maintainer Corporation of New Mexico


March 19, 2019


Alice Jenkins, General Manager

Roger Smythe, Safety Committee Chair


Gwen Vos, Supervisor

Truck Finishing Department


Undercoating Safety Incident on March 18, 2019

Opening: Identify the type of incident and preview the report. This report details a recent event in the undercoating bay. You will find (A) a description of the incident, (B) conclusions about the causes, and (C) recommendations for fixing the problem.

Middle: Divide the report into logical sections with clear headings. A. The Incident: Tangled Air Hose

During a routine inspection of work on Thursday, March 18, 2019 at 10:45 a.m., I found undercoater Bob Irving struggling to breathe underneath the truck he was working on. While spraying liquid-rubber sealant on the undercarriage, he had rolled his dolly over his air hose, cutting off the air supply. Provide context, describe the incident, and explain what followed.I immediately pulled him out, untangled him, and took the following steps:

  1. I checked Bob for injuries and determined that he was unharmed.

  2. List and number the events in the order they happened.I asked him what had happened. He explained that he couldn’t free himself because (a) he became tangled in the spray-gun cords, (b) his air hose was locked into his oxygen suit, and (c) he was lying down in a cramped space.

  3. I discussed the incident with the undercoating crew. They confirmed that similar problems had developed before, but they hadn’t filed reports because no one had actually been injured.

  4. I inspected thoroughly all undercoating equipment.

  5. As a short-term solution, I bought air horn alarms to attach to the undercoaters’ dollies.

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B. Conclusions: Probable Causes

Middle: Develop clear cause-effect thinking. Presently, undercoaters maneuver under trucks and spray liquid-rubber sealant on the undercarriage while lying on their backs. Maintainer provides oxygen suits to protect their skin and oxygen supply from this sealant that (a) produces noxious fumes, (b) causes choking if swallowed, and (c) injures skin upon contact. However, this incident shows that our safeguards are inadequate: Use strong transitional words.

  • Ten-year-old oxygen-suit meters and air tubes frequently malfunction. Masks and hoses are beginning to crack.

  • Be precise and objective. The practice of lying on a dolly while spraying can cause undercoaters to get tangled in cords and hoses or roll over their air hoses.

  • Spraying from a prone position allows liquid rubber to drip onto undercoaters’ masks. This dripping obscures vision and makes it more likely that workers will get entangled and more difficult for them to get untangled.

C. Recommendations: New Safety Measures

Closing: Suggest solutions that clearly match the problem. To further protect undercoaters from these hazards, I recommend the following actions:

  1. Replace oxygen suits and equipment to meet the 2018 OSHA oxygen-safety standards (air-hose locks with emergency-release latches).

  2. Put trucks on lifts so that undercoaters can work standing up.

  3. Have two undercoaters work together on the same truck in order to monitor each other.

  4. Purchase No-Drip Sealant Applicators to eliminate dripping liquid rubber.

Stress benefits of action.With these measures, undercoating incidents such as the one with Bob Irving should not happen again. Please contact me with any questions and with your response to these recommendations. My phone number is 555-1222, and my email address is <>.


Writing Periodic Reports

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Opening: Identify the report, the time period, the writer, and the reader. Date Submitted:

November 14, 2019

Period Covered:

November 1, 2018, to October 31, 2019

Prepared By:

Denzel Irving

Prepared For:

Senior Management

State the purpose of the report and what it covers. The following report reviews 2018–2019 activities at Stewart Plastics’ Joliet facility. Topics covered include manufacturing, safety, and quality. Based on this review, the report projects sales and production needs for 2019–2020.


Provide main points in a summary. (The summary may be placed at the end.) Major projects involved plastite screws for Fimco, spray-on graphics for Newland, Kelch steel clamps on EcoLab molds, and soda blasting to clean molds. Safety remained a priority through consultation with Liberty Mutual. First-Time Quality improved from 96.8 to 97.5 percent. Anticipated sales should be $6.4 million. To reach maximum output of $6.8 million, purchase a 5-axis router and hire a process engineer.

Year-End Operations Report

Middle: Divide information into logical categories with clear headings. Manufacturing and Process Engineering

  • Evaluated using thread-forming plastite screws to replace aluminum T-inserts on standard spot tank. Submitted samples to Fimco for testing.

  • Completed testing of spray-on graphics and submitted samples to Newland. Though test parts looked good, the masking process proved time-consuming and costly. Alternate technology (Mark-It Company’s post-molding graphic application) looked promising.

  • Use a “telegraphic” style (short clauses). Tested stainless steel clamps from Kelch on EcoLab molds. Clamps reduced maintenance downtime 50 percent.

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Safety and Maintenance

  • Use short lists and parallel structure. Tessa Swann, Loss Prevention Consultant from Liberty Mutual, continued to identify safety issues and to implement solutions.

  • Safety Committee facilitated improvements.

  • Crews completed annual maintenance on all machines.


  • Thermo King Quality System assessment gave us a 53.7 rating.

  • Awarded Newland Quality Award in June 2019.

  • First-Time Quality for 2018 was 97.5 percent, up from 96.8 percent.

Middle: Shift from looking back to looking forward. 2019–2020 Goals

Sales Overview

Anticipated production output is $6.4 million, based on the following:

  • Newland: anticipate sales to go from $1.4 to $1.6 million.

  • Fermont: release of 5, 10, 15, 30, and 60KW parts for production should mean $850,000 increase in sales.

  • Fimco: anticipate sales to go from $1.1 million to $1.8 million.

Manufacturing Goals and Production Needs

  • Combine the 800 and 160 work areas into a cell and analyze the effects on through-put and overall machine efficiencies.

  • Consider purchasing a 5-axis router for custom-job applications requiring exact-trim procedures.

  • Hire a process engineer by March 2020: crucial to success of custom-job applications and implementing 5-axis router technology.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Closing: Summarize the report and the suggested follow-up. The Joliet Plant is capable of $6.8 million in sales. Roadblocks include the lack of a 5-axis router for custom-trimmed products and training for the use of this router. Therefore, I recommend the following:

  1. Purchase a 5-axis router.

  2. Hire a process engineer who can use the 5-axis router and conduct training.


Writing Progress Reports

July 16, 2019

Mr. Anthony Jenson

Contract Compliance Officer

Community Planning and Development

473 Maple Street

Reading, PA 19608-3361

Dear Anthony:

Opening: Give a title and a reference number if appropriate. Subject: Hope Services Annual Progress Report (CDBG 2368-08)

Please accept this Annual Progress Report concerning Hope Services’ work with minorities for fiscal year July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. Clarify the period and preview the report.

I have included these statistics: (1) total number of minority persons assisted, (2) the number of households and their ethnic origin, and (3) their status as low- or moderate-income households. In addition, I have included a narrative describing highlights of culturally specific services for the past fiscal year.

Middle: Provide precise project data. Client Numbers (July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019)

The following is client information for the minority households served by the Hope Services’ staff through the Cultural Diversity Program at the shelter:

  1. 178 minorities served, including 102 children.

  2. 76 households served, 100 percent female-headed (36 African American, 10 Asian, 23 Hispanic, 7 Native American).

  3. 96 percent of households below the poverty level; 4 percent of households at low-income levels.

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Middle: Explain key developments. Outreach Highlights of the Cultural Diversity Program

In addition to the previous statistics, here are two illustrations of our progress on cultural-diversity issues:

  • Use lists where appropriate. In January, Jasmine Michaels joined Hope Services to develop the Cultural Diversity Program, including (a) services for victims of sexual or domestic assault, and (b) community outreach to minority populations.

  • In April, representatives from the following organizations formed Project SART (Sexual Abuse Response Team): Hope Services, Reading Hospital, Berks County Attorney’s Office, Reading Police Department, and Penn State University.

Conclusions and Projections

Closing: Summarize the project’s status, and look forward to the next stages. As shown above, Hope Services (HS) continues to improve its services to minority clients and communities in Reading.

  • Numbers indicate that HS is helping its target clientele (low-income minority households headed by women).

  • Hiring a cultural diversity specialist has given HS a strong presence in the community.

  • In the coming year, HS will focus on strengthening its outreach to minority communities and increasing its training of staff and volunteers in cultural-diversity issues.

Anticipate further contact. Thank you for supporting our work with minorities through Hope Services. If you need additional information, please contact me. My phone number is 555-665-377; my email address is

Yours sincerely,

Signature Melissa S. Drummond

Melissa S. Drummond

Resource Development Director


Writing Trip Reports

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February 3, 2019


Ralph Arnoldson

Pasco District Supervisor


Chris Waterford, Crew Chief

Opening: Identify the job. Repair:

Leak Clamp Installation


Camas Eugene Lateral near the city of Mollala, Oregon


February 2, 2019


#3 (Brad Drenton, Lena Harold, John Baldritch,

Laura Postit, Jill Reynaldo, Chris Waterford)

Provide trip background. Crew #3 and I (Chris Waterford, crew chief) responded to a call from the Eugene District crew asking for help on repairing a leak. Based on their request, we took the emergency trailer and a 24-inch Plidco clamp. Our response time was 6.5 hours (2 hours loading, 4.5 hours driving). We arrived about 2:30 p.m.

Middle: Divide trip activities into logical categories. Assessment of Problem

The Eugene crew had exposed the leak area on the pipe. Then Crew #3 and I assessed damage and conditions:

  • Use headings, subheadings, and lists. Mud covered the work area and the ramps in the ditch.

  • Water in the ditch came up to the bottom of the pipe.

  • Rain was falling.

  • The leak came from two quarter-inch cracks on a seam (at 10 o’clock looking south).

  • A power generator was on site.

  • Three bolt-on leak clamps and one hydraulic leak clamp were on hand.

  • Space for a hydro crane and an emergency trailer was limited.

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Repair Plan and Decisions

Middle: Condense key trip and events and issues. With conditions in mind, we considered three issues: the possibility of more leaks, clamp selection, and safety precautions.

Highlight decisions and developments. More Leaks? Eugene crew members probed three-foot sections of pipe on each side of the two quarter-inch cracks and found no more leaks.

Best Clamp? Laura indicated that the clamp would not need to be welded, so we decided to use the 24-inch bolt-on clamp.

Safety Precautions? We decided not to use the air systems for these reasons:

  • The gas leak was minor (detectable only with a detecting agent).

  • Safer installation of the clamp in daylight would be delayed by using air systems.

  • Suits and breathing systems limit visibility, add weight, and create fatigue that could cause errors and injuries.

Based on these considerations, we installed the 24-inch bolt-on clamp in 1.5 hours. The Eugene crew took responsibility for site cleanup. We packed up, returned home in 4.5 hours, and unloaded in 1 hour.

Closing: Summarize work done. Summary

The February 2, 2019, repair trip for Crew #3 aimed to help the Eugene District crew repair two leaks on the Camas Eugene Lateral near Mollala. Based on the small leak size, the muddy site, and the poor weather (rain), we decided to repair the leak without using protective air systems while installing a 24-inch bolt-on clamp. As a result, we completed the repair with these benefits:

  • Stress costs and benefits. A less-expensive clamp was used.

  • A time savings of approximately two hours was realized.

Total time spent on this repair was 13.5 hours, including travel, repair, loading, and unloading.


Checklist Writing Reports

Your goal is to provide clear, accurate information and analysis about an incident, a time period, a project, a trip, or another business activity.

  • Ideas

    • has a clear purpose.

    • spells out its purpose.

    • provides complete, accurate data.

    • offers conclusions and recommendations.

    • uses tables, charts (lists, graphics) to communicate information clearly.

  • Organization

    • is organized logically into three parts: (1) introduction, (2) findings, and (3) conclusions and recommendations.

    • presents a summary up front if the news is good or neutral; presents conclusions at the end in bad-news or persuasive situations.

    • arranges findings in a pattern: order of importance, time or space, cause-effect, problem-solution, comparison-contrast, and so on.

    • has informative, parallel headings that divide the report.

  • Voice

    • has a matter-of-fact but positive tone.

  • Words

    • uses words that fit the reader: the right formality and complexity.

  • Sentences

    • uses brief, parallel phrases or sentences in lists.

  • Correctness

    • uses correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics.

    • is free of typing errors.

  • Design

    • has a format and presentation that follow company guidelines.

    • uses white space, boldface type, and graphics effectively.

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

—Mark Twain

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