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Business Reports and Proposals: Informal Reports

Reporting in the Digital-Age Workplace

  • Routine reports keep managers informed about completed tasks, projects, and work in progress.
  • Reports help executives sift through huge amounts of digital and other data.
  • Report findings may be presented orally in meetings or shared digitally in e-mail messages, PDF files, or slide decks.


Three Main Purposes of Business Reports

  1. Convey information
  2. Answer questions
  3. Solve problems


Characteristics of Business Reports

  • Informational reports
    • Present data without analysis or recommendations
    • Are routine and often periodic
  • Analytical reports
    • Provide data or findings, analyses, and conclusions
    • May also supply recommendations
    • Intend to persuade readers


Audience Analysis and Report Organization

Direct Strategy


  • are informed
  • are supportive
  • want results first


Indirect Strategy


  • need to be educated
  • need to be persuaded
  • may be disappointed or hostile


Report Writing Style

  • Friendly, casual tone
  • First-person pronouns, contractions
  • Shorter sentences, familiar words
  • Conversational language
  • Emphasis on objectivity, accuracy, fairness
  • Professional distance between writer and reader
  • May use third person (the researcher) and passive voice
  • Absence of humor, figures of speech, “editorializing”


Learning Outcome 2

Describe typical report formats and understand the significance of effective headings.


Report Formats

  • Digital Formats and PDF Files
  • Digital slide decks
  • Infographics
  • E-Mail and Memo Format
  • Forms and Templates
  • Letter Format
  • Manuscript Format


Informal Reports– Letter Format

Tips for Letter Reports:

  • Use letter format for short, informal reports sent to outsiders.
  • Organize the facts section into logical divisions identified by consistent headings.
  • Single-space the body.
  • Double-space between paragraphs.
  • Leave one or two blank lines above each side heading.
  • Create side margins of 1 to 1¼ inches.
  • Add a second-page heading, if necessary, consisting of the addressee’s name, the date, and the page number.


Tips for Memo Reports:

  • Use memo format for short (ten or fewer pages) informal reports within an organization.
  • Leave side margins of 1 to 1¼ inches.
  • Sign your initials on the From line on hard copies.
  • Consider attaching the memo to a cover e-mail for delivery.


Tips for E-Mail and Memo Reports:

  • Chunk similar information into groups for quick comprehension.
  • Use concise headings to quickly identify groups.


Informal Reports– Digital Formats and PDF Files

  • PDF documents are a popular delivery format.
  • Some reports are animated and may be hyperlinked to other content.
  • Slide presentations can be converted to video.
  • Slide decks are a condensed image-rich format not intended for verbal delivery.


Types of Headings

Functional Headings

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Findings
  • Discussion


Talking Headings

  • The Best Business Laptop Money Can Buy
  • Will Smartphones Replace PCs?
  • Texting: The New Smoking Gun
  • What’s New in Social Media?


Types of Headings

Combination Headings

  • Background: How Apple Won
  • Personnel: The Savvy Workforce
  • Production Costs: The Investment Is Paying Off


Production Costs: The Investment Is Paying Off

  1. Write short but clear headings.
  2. Experiment with wording that tells who, what, when, where, why, and how.
  3. Include at least one heading per report page.
  4. Try to create headings that are parallel.
  5. Construct a hierarchy of heading levels using placement, size, and font.
  6. Don’t use more than three heading levels.


Levels of Report Headings

Learning Outcome 3

Identify the problem the report addresses, define the report purpose, and collect significant secondary and primary information to solve the problem.


Determine the Problem and Purpose


Problem Statement:
What can we do about problem X?

Statement of Purpose:
To recommend a plan for solving problem X.


Collect Information From Secondary and Primary Sources

Good reports are based on solid, accurate, and verifiable facts from sources such as

  1. Company records
    printed and digital files
  1. Printed materials
    books, newspapers, journals
  2. Digital resources online
    databanks, websites, social media, blogs
  3. Observation
    colleagues, supervisors, customers, competitors
  4. Surveys and questionnaires
    customer feedback
  5. Interviews
    experts, target population


Learning Outcome 4

Prepare short informational reports that describe routine tasks.


Trip, Convention, and Conference Reports

  • Identify the event (name, date, and location).
  • Preview the topics to be discussed.
  • Use headings and bullets to enhance readability.
  • Summarize the main topics that might benefit others in the organization.
  • Express appreciation.
  • Mention the value of the trip or event.
  • Offer to share the information.
  • Submit itemized expenses, if requested, separately.


Progress, or Interim, Reports

  • Specify the purpose and nature of the project.
  • Provide background information if necessary to inform the reader.
  • Describe the work completed thus far.
  • Explain the work currently in progress, including names, activities, methods used, and locations.


Minutes of Meetings

  • Begin with the group’s name, date, time, and place of meeting.
  • Identify the names of attendees and absentees.
  • State whether the previous minutes were approved or revised.
  • Record briefly the discussions of old business, new business, announcements, and committee reports.
  • Include the precise wording of motions.
  • Conclude with the name of the person recording the minutes.
  • Record the votes and actions taken.
  • Include a signature on formal minutes.



  • State the main idea or purpose of the summary.
  • Highlight the research methods, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
  • Omit illustrations, examples, and references.
  • Organize for readability by including headings and bulleted or enumerated lists.
  • If requested, include your reaction or overall evaluation of the document.


Learning Outcome 5

Prepare short analytical reports that solve business problems.


Justification / Recommendation Reports

  • Explain the problem or need briefly.
  • Announce the recommendation, solution, or action concisely and
    with action verbs.
  • Explain more fully the benefits of the recommendation or steps necessary to solve the problem.
  • Include a discussion of pros, cons, and costs.
  • Conclude with a summary specifying the recommendation and necessary action.
  • Refer to the problem in general terms in the subject line or title.
  • Describe the problem or need your recommendation addresses.
  • Use specific examples, supporting statistics, and authoritative quotations to lend credibility.
  • Discuss alternative solutions, beginning with the least likely to succeed.
  • Present the most promising alternative (your recommendation) last.
  • Show how the advantages of your recommendation outweigh its disadvantages.
  • Summarize your recommendation. Specify the action it requires, if appropriate.
  • Ask for authorization to proceed, if necessary.


Feasibility Reports

  • Announce your decision immediately
  • Provide a description of the background and problem necessitating the proposal.
  • Discuss the benefits of the proposal.
  • Describe the problems that may result.
  • Calculate the costs associated with the proposal.
  • Show the time frame necessary for implementing the proposal.


Yardstick Reports

  • Describe the problem or need.
  • Explain possible solutions and alternatives.
  • Establish criteria for comparing the alternatives.
  • Tell how the criteria were selected or developed.
  • Discuss and evaluate each alternative in terms of the criteria.
  • Draw conclusions and make recommendations.



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