Saturday, July 25, 2015

Business Report Writing | Structure and Layout

Business Report Writing | Structure and Layout
Custom and convenience have more or less standardized the parts or elements that constitute a report and also established the sequence in which they appear. Variations in structure are, however, made according to the purpose, scope and contents of a report.

The order in which various elements are organized is given below. The first ten elements are collectively termed as front matter, because they appear before the main body. The last five are known as the back matter because they follow the main body.

Front Matter
1. Cover
2. Frontispiece
3. Title Page
4. Copyright Notice
5. Forwarding Letter
6. Preface
7. Acknowledgements
8. Table of Contents
9. List of Illustrations
10. Abstract and Summery

Main Body
1. Introduction
2. Discussion or Description
3. Conclusions
4. Recommendations

Back Matter
1. Appendices
2. List of References
3. Bibliography
4. Glossary
5. Index

Of the above elements, only the title page, the introduction, and the discussion or description are obligatory. In very short reports even a separate title page is not necessary; all you need to do is to write the title on the top of the first page and start with the introduction.

In practice, only long formal reports are likely to contain all the elements. The primary consideration for including an element should be its usefulness. Including elements which are not needed would make your report unnecessarily bulky and impede the flow of communication.

What we have given above is the order of appearance and not the sequence of writing. An important point to remember is that all the terms used to describe elements should not appear as headings or sub-headings in a report. It would be absurd to give in a report a sub-heading such as 'cover' or 'title page' or to designate a certain part of the report as 'main body' or 'main text.' It is generally applicable to other formal writings such as articles, research papers, monograph, books, etc.

Front Matter

A cover is usually made of white or some soft, neutral colored card. It protects the manuscript from damage and gives the report a neat appearance. Some organizations prepare covers which have their name and address printed on them. All one has to do is to write or get typed (i) the title of the report, (ii) its number, if any, (iii) the date, and (iv) the classification (secret, top secret, etc.) if any. These items of information help identify the report when it is in circulation or filed. Sometimes the name of the author and the authority for whom the report is written are also mentioned.

The cover gives the first impression and you should, therefore, not crowd it with information. Too many items are likely to distract the reader's attention and mar the attractiveness of its layout.

The inside of the front cover and both the inside and the outside of the back cover are usually left blank. Sometimes the inside of the front is used for indicating the circulation list. Notice carefully a sample cover given below.

Top Secret                                                                               Report Number: 1052

United Airways Limited
18 Karwan Bazar, Dhaka 1216

The Causes of Failure to Attract the Passengers to Our Flights

10 October, 2013

A frontispiece generally appears in bound reports which are meant for wide circulation. It is a sort of window display that ignites the curiosity of the reader. The forms most often used for the purpose are photographs, maps and artistic drawings.

Title Page
Usually the title page is the first right-hand page of the report. In addition to all the information given on the cover, it may contain the following information:

1. Sub-title
2. Name of the author
3. Name of the authority for whom the report was written
4. Contract, project or job number
5. Approvals
6. Distribution list

Sometimes you will be required to get your report approved by some other officer before submission. When you do this, mention the name and designation of the approving officer on the title page. Similarly, if your report is meant for circulation to officers other than the primary recipient, indicate their names and officials titles. Use a separate page for the purpose if the lists of approvals and circulation are long.

Take great care in setting the items on the page symmetrically. Proper grouping of items and spacing are essential to make the title page look attractive. Some organizations provide a prescribed form for the title page to help their employees. Look at the following example page which has been divided into four sections.

Project Number: E21                                                                Report Number: 2015


Prepared for
The Chairman
Department of Forest and Environment
BRAC University, Dhaka

The Students
Department of Forest and Environment
BRAC University, Dhaka

25 October, 2013

The first contains the project and the report numbers written on the left hand side and the right hand side respectively. The second section gives the title of the report typed in triple space in capital letters. The third section which is centered on the page indicates the authority for whom the report has been written. And the last section groups two items, namely, the author (name and designation) and the date of submission. While setting the various items on the page, allow an one inch margin on all the four sides, and about half an inch extra on the left side for binding.

Copyright Notice
If a report is published, copyright notice is given on the inside of the title page as:
@2013 Kamrul Islam

Sometimes the following note is added.
All rights reserved. No part of this report may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission from the publisher.


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