Learning Objectives After studying this chapter, you will be able to: Describe the four functions of a report introduction. Explain how the introduction and close of a proposal differ from the introduction and close of an informational or analytical report. Identify three elements that help readers find their way through long reports and proposals. Identify five technological tools that can help you create compelling reports in less time. Explain the criteria for deciding which points to illustrate with visuals. Identify the most common visuals used in business reports and proposals. Identify the nine prefatory parts of a formal report. Differentiate between a synopsis and an executive summary.
With a solid plan in place, you’re ready for the writing and completing phases. Planning business messages. To plan any message, first analyze the situation by defining your purpose and developing a profile of your audience. With that in mind, you can gather information that will meet your audience’s needs. Next, select the right medium (oral, written, or electronic) to deliver your message. With those three factors in place, you’re ready to organize the information by defining your main idea, limiting your scope, selecting an approach, and outlining your content. Writing business messages. Once you’ve planned your message, adapt to your audience with sensitivity, relationship skills, and style. Then you’re ready to compose your message by choosing strong words, creating effective sentences, and developing coherent paragraphs. Completing business messages. After writing your first draft, revise your message to make sure it is clear, concise, and correct. Next produce your message, giving it an attractive, professional appearance. Proofread the final product for typos, spelling errors, and other mechanical problems. Finally, distribute your message using the best combination of personal and technological tools.
This chapter builds on the writing techniques and ideas you learned in Chapter 4 with issues that are particularly important when preparing longer message formats. In addition, you’ll get an introduction to creating effective visuals, which are a vital aspect of many reports and proposals. As with shorter messages, take a few moments before you start writing to make sure you’re ready to adapt your approach to your audience.
Adapting to your audience begins with being sensitive to audience needs: adopting the “you” attitude, maintaining a strong sense of etiquette, emphasizing the positive, and using bias-free language. Reports and proposals can put heavy demands on your readers, so the “you” attitude takes on even greater importance with these long messages
When you compose reports and proposals, follow the writing advice offered in Chapter 4: select the best words, create the most effective sentences, and develop coherent paragraphs. As with other written business communications, the text of reports and proposals has three main sections: an introduction (or opening ), a body, and a close.
The introduction is the first section in the text of any report or proposal. An effective introduction accomplishes at least four things: Puts the report or proposal in a broader context by tying it to a problem or an assignment. Introduces the subject or purpose of the report or proposal and indicates why the subject is important. Previews the main ideas and the order in which they’ll be covered. Establishes the tone of the document and the writer’s relationship with the audience.
The body is the middle section in the text of your report or proposal. It consists of the major divisions or chapters (with various levels of headings for long documents). These divisions present, analyze, and interpret the information gathered during your investigation, and they support the recommendations or conclusions discussed in your document. The body contains the &quot;proof,&quot; the detailed information necessary to support your conclusions and recommendations.
The closing is the final section in the text of your report or proposal. It has four important functions: Emphasizes the main points of the message. Summarizes the benefits to the reader if the document suggests a change or some other course of action. Refers back to all the pieces (overall structure) and reminds readers how those pieces fit together. Brings all the action items together in one place and gives the details about who should do what, when, where, and how. Research shows that the final section of a report or proposal leaves a strong lasting impression. The closing gives you one last chance to make sure that your report says what you intended.
The content and quality of your reports will likely influence your professional success, because they show how well you think, gather and analyze data, draw conclusions, and develop and support your recommendations. Your credibility and future success is on the line with every business report you write. You’ll create more successful reports if your content is as follows: Accurate. Information presented in a report must be factually correct and error free. When writing reports, be sure to double-check your facts and references in addition to checking for typos. Complete. To help colleagues or supervisors make a decision, include all the information necessary for readers to understand the situation, problem, or proposal. Support all key assertions using illustrations, explanations, and facts. Tell your readers what they need to know, in a way that meets their needs. Balanced. Present all sides of the issue fairly and equitably, and include all the information necessary. Omitting relevant information or facts can make your report biased. Clear and logical. Clear sentence structure and good transitions are essential. Identify the ideas that belong together, and organize them in a way that's easy to understand. Documented properly. If you use primary and secondary sources for your report or proposal, properly document and give credit to your sources.
The following topics are commonly covered in a report introduction. Include those elements that will help your readers understand and accept your report: Authorization. When, how, and by whom the report was authorized; who wrote it; and when it was submitted. Problem/purpose. The reason for the report's existence and what is to be accomplished as a result of the report's being written. Scope. What is and what isn't going to be covered in the report. The scope indicates the report's size and complexity. Background. The historical conditions or factors that led up to the report. This section tells how the problem developed and what has been done, so far. Sources and methods. The primary and secondary sources of information used. This section explains how samples were selected, how questionnaires were constructed, what follow-up was done, and so on. Definitions. A brief statement introducing a list of terms and their definitions. Terms may also be defined in the body, explanatory notes, or glossary. Limitations. Factors beyond your control that affect report quality. This section includes doubts about any aspect of your report. Even so, limitations do not excuse a poor study or a bad report. Report organization. The organization of the report, along with a rationale for following this plan.
One of the decisions you need to make when writing the body of your report is how much detail to include. Some audiences and situations require detailed coverage; others lend themselves to shorter treatment. Provide only enough detail in the body to support your conclusions and recommendations; put additional detail in tables, charts, and appendixes. The following topics are commonly covered in a report body: Explanations of a problem or opportunity Facts, statistical evidence, and trends Results of studies or investigations Discussion and analyses of potential courses of action Advantages, disadvantages, costs, and benefits of a course of action Procedures and steps for a process Methods and approaches Criteria for evaluating alternatives and options Conclusions and recommendations, and support for them With the direct approach, state your conclusions or recommendations up front and provide evidence and support in the body. With the indirect approach, discuss your logic in the body and reserve conclusions or recommendations until the very end.
The content and length of your report close depend on your choice of direct or indirect order, among other variables. If you’re using a direct approach, you can end with a summary of key points, listed in the order they appear in the report body. If you’re using an indirect approach, you can use the close to present your conclusions or recommendations if you didn’t end the body with them. However, don’t introduce new facts in your close; your audience should have all the information they need by the time they reach this point. If your report is intended to prompt others to action, use the ending to spell out exactly what should happen next. If you’ll be taking all the actions yourself, make sure your readers understand this fact so that they’ll know what to expect from you. In a short report, the close may be only a paragraph or two. However, the close of a long report may have separate sections for conclusions, recommendations, and actions. Using separate sections helps your reader locate this material and focus on each element. If you have multiple conclusions, recommendations, or actions, you may want to number and list them.
With proposals, the content for each section is governed by many variables—the most important being the source of your proposal. If your proposal is unsolicited , you have some latitude in the scope and organization of content. However, if you are responding to a request for proposals, you need to follow the instructions in the RFP in every detail. The general purpose of any proposal is to persuade readers to do something, so your writing approach is similar to that used for persuasive messages, including the use of the AIDA method of gaining attention, building interest, creating desire, and motivating action is an effective structure.
The general purpose of any proposal is to persuade the readers to do something. Your proposal must sell your audience on your ideas, product, service, methods, and company. Just as with any persuasive message, you use the AIDA plan to gain attention, build interest, create desire, and motive action. Here are some additional strategies to strengthen your argument: Demonstrate your knowledge. Everything you write should show your reader that you have the knowledge and experience to solve the problem. Research the competition. This strategy is especially important if you are competing against others for a job. Adopt a “you” attitude. Relate your product, service, or personnel to the reader’s exact needs.
The general purpose of any proposal is to persuade the readers to do something. Your proposal must sell your audience on your ideas, product, service, methods, and company. Just as with any persuasive message, you use the AIDA plan to gain attention, build interest, create desire, and motive action. Here are some additional strategies to strengthen your argument: Provide concrete examples. Avoid vague, unsupported generalizations. Instead, provide quantifiable details. Spell out your plan and give details on how the job will be done. Such concrete examples persuade readers; unsupported generalizations don’t. Prove that your proposal is workable. Your proposal must be appropriate and feasible for the audience. Package your proposal attractively. Make sure your proposal is letter perfect, inviting, and readable.
The introduction presents and summarizes the problem you want to solve and your solutions. It orients the readers to the remainder of the text. If your proposal is solicited, its introduction should refer to the RFP; if unsolicited, its introduction should mention any factors that led you to submit your proposal. The following topics are commonly covered in a proposal introduction: Background or statement of the problem. Briefly reviews the reader's situation and establishes a need for action. Readers may not perceive a problem or opportunity the same way you do. In unsolicited proposals, you must convince them that a problem or opportunity exists before you can convince them to accept your solution. In a way that is meaningful to your reader, discuss the current situation and explain how things could be better. Solution. Briefly describes the change you propose and highlights your key selling points and their benefits, showing how your proposal will solve the reader's problem. In long proposals, the heading for this section might also be &quot;Preliminary Analysis,&quot; “Overview of Approach,” or some other wording that will identify this section as a summary of your solution. Delimitations. States the boundaries of the proposal––what you will and will not do. This brief section may also be labeled “scope.” Report organization. Orients the reader to the remainder of the proposal and calls attention to the major divisions of thought.
The proposal’s body has the same purpose as the body of other reports: It gives complete details on the proposed solution and specifies what the anticipated results will be. In addition to providing facts and evidence to support your conclusions, an effective body covers this information: Proposed solution. This section describes what you have to offer: your concept, product, or service. Show how your product or service will benefit your readers, and point out advantages that you have over your competitors. Work plan. Describes how you'll accomplish what must be done. Explain the steps you'll take, their timing, the methods or resources you'll use, and the person(s) responsible. Statement of qualifications. Describes your organization's experience, personnel, and facilities—all in relation to readers' needs. Costs. Estimating costs is difficult, so prove that your costs are realistic. Break them down in detail. Then, your readers can see how you got your numbers: so much for labor, materials, transportation, travel, training, and other categories.
The final section of a proposal generally summarizes the key points, emphasizes the benefits that readers will realize from your solution, summarizes the merits of your approach, restates why you and your firm are a good choice, and asks for a decision from the client. In both formal and informal proposals, make this section relatively brief, assertive (but not brash or abrupt), and confident.
Good writers give their readers a preview or road map of a report's structure, clarifying how the various parts are related. Three tools are useful for giving readers a sense of the overall structure of your document and for keeping them on track: headings, smooth transitions, and previews and reviews. Headings are brief titles that cue readers about the content of the section that follows. They improve a document’s readability and are especially useful markers for clarifying the framework of a report. They visually indicate shifts from one idea to the next, and when subheadings (lower-level headings) and headings are both used, they help readers see the relationship between subordinate and main ideas. In addition, busy readers can quickly understand the gist of a document simply by scanning the headings. Transitions are words or phrases that tie ideas together and show how one thought is related to another and help readers move from one section of a report to the next. Depending on the length of the report, such transitions can be words, sentences, or complete paragraphs that serve as previews of the next section of a report or reviews of the ideas presented in the section just ending. Using a preview section to introduce an important topic helps readers get ready for new information. Previews are particularly helpful when the information is complex or unexpected. Review sections come after a body of material and summarize the information for your readers. Reviews help readers absorb details while keeping track of the big picture.
Creating lengthy reports and proposals can be a huge task, so take advantage of technological tools to help throughout the process. You've read about some of these in earlier chapters; here are some of the most important tools for developing reports and proposals: Templates. Beyond simply formatting documents, report templates can identify the specific sections required for each type of report. Linked and embedded documents. Reports and proposals often include graphics, spreadsheets, databases, and other elements created in a variety of software packages. When you do combine files this way, make sure you know how the software handles the files or else you may receive some unpleasant surprises.
Creating lengthy reports and proposals can be a huge task, so take advantage of technological tools to help throughout the process. You've read about some of these in earlier chapters; here are some of the most important tools for developing reports and proposals: Electronic forms. For recurring forms such as sales reports and compliance reports, consider creating a word processor file that combines boilerplate text for material that doesn't change from report to report. Electronic documents. Portable Document Format (PDF) files have become a universal replacement for printed reports and proposals. Multimedia documents. When the written word isn't enough, combine your report with video clips, animation, presentation software slides, and other elements.
Well-designed visuals can bring your messages to life and help you connect to your audiences both intellectually and emotionally. Visuals enhance the communication power of textual messages, and they can often convey some message points (such as spatial relationships and procedures) more effectively and more efficiently than words. Visuals attract and hold attention, helping your audience understand and remember your message. Busy readers often jump to visuals to try to get the gist of a message, and well-done visuals can draw readers deeper into your reports and presentations.
To help identify which parts of your message can benefit from visual support, step back and consider the flow of your entire message from the audience's point of view. When you're deciding which points to present visually, think of the five Cs: Clear. The human mind is extremely adept at processing visual information, whether it's something as simple as the shape of stop sign or as complicated as the floor plan for a new factory. If you're having difficultly conveying an idea in words, take a minute to brainstorm some visual possibilities. Complete. Visuals, particularly tables, often serve to provide the supporting details for your main idea or recommendation. Moreover, the process of summarizing, concluding, or recommending often requires you to narrow down your material or exclude details; a table or other visual can provide these details without getting in the way of your main message. Concise. You've probably heard the phrase &quot;A picture is worth a thousand words.&quot; If a particular section of your message seems to require extension description or explanation, see whether there's a way to convey this information visually. Connected. A key purpose of many business messages is showing connections of some sort—similarities or differences, correlations, cause-and-effect relationships, and so on. Whenever you want readers to see such a connection, see whether a chart, diagram, or other illustration can help. Compelling. Your readers live in a highly visual world. Will one or more illustrations make your message more persuasive, more interesting, more likely to get read? You never want to insert visuals simply for decorative purposes, of course, but even if a particular point can be expressed equally well via text or visuals, consider adding the visual in order to make your report or presentation more compelling.
Once you've identified which points would benefit most from visual presentation, your next decision is choosing which type of visual to use for each message point. For certain types of information, the decision is usually obvious. If you want to present a large set of numerical values or detailed textual information, for example, a table is the obvious choice in most cases. Also, certain visuals are used more commonly for certain applications; for instance, your audience expects pie charts to be used to show the percentages that make up a whole.
When you have to present detailed, specific information, choose a table, a systematic arrangement of data in columns and rows. Tables are ideal when the audience needs the information that would be either difficult or tedious to handle in the main text. Most tables contain the standard parts illustrated above.
Many tables are strictly numerical. When preparing such tables, observe the following guidelines: Use common, understandable units, and clearly identify the units you're using: dollars, percentages, price per ton, or whatever. Express all items in a column in the same unit, and round off for simplicity. Label column headings clearly, and use a subhead if necessary.
Many tables are strictly numerical. When preparing such tables, observe the following guidelines: Separate columns or rows with lines or extra space to make the table easy to follow. Don’t cram so much information into a table that it becomes hard to read. Document the source of the data using the same format as a text footnote
A line chart illustrates trends over time or plots the relationship of two variables.
If you need to compare two or more sets of data, you can plot them on the same chart for instant visual comparison (see Figure 11.3). Two or three lines on a single chart are usually easy to read, but beyond that, things can get confusing, particularly if the lines cross.
A surface chart , also called an area chart , is a form of line chart with a cumulative effect; all the lines add up to the top line, which represents the total. This form of chart helps you illustrate changes in the composition of something over time. When preparing a surface chart, put the most important segment against the baseline, and restrict the number of strata to four or five.
A bar chart portrays numbers by the height or length of its rectangular bars, making a series of numbers easy to read or understand. Bar charts are particularly valuable when you want to: Compare the size of several items at one time. Show changes in one item over time. Indicate the composition of several items over time. Show the relative size of components of a whole. You can be creative with bar charts in many ways. You might align the bars either vertically or horizontally or you might even use bar charts to show both positive and negative quantities. Be careful, however, to keep all the bars in the chart the same width; different widths could suggest a relative importance to the viewer. In addition, space the bars evenly and place them in a logical order such as chronological or alphabetical.
Bar charts can appear in various forms: Singular (as CommuniCo Staff Computer Skills).
Bar charts can appear in various forms: Segmented (CommuniCo Preferred Communication Media).
Bar charts can appear in various forms: Combination (CommuniCo Employee Training Costs).
Like segmented bar charts and area charts, a pie chart shows how parts of a whole are distributed. Each segment represents a slice of a complete circle, or pie. Pie charts are an effective way to show percentages or to compare one segment with another. When composing pie charts, restrict the number of slices. Otherwise, the chart looks cluttered and is difficult to label. If necessary, lump the smallest pieces together in a &quot;miscellaneous&quot; category. Ideally, the largest or most important slice of the pie, the segment you want to emphasize, is placed at the twelve o'clock position; the rest are arranged clockwise either in order of size or in some other logical progression. Use different colors or patterns to distinguish the various pieces. If you want to draw attention to the segment that is of the greatest interest to your readers, use a brighter color for that segment, draw an arrow to the segment, or explode it; that is, pull the segment away from the rest of the pie. In any case, label all the segments and indicate their value in either percentages or units of measure so that your readers will be able to judge the value of the wedges. Remember, the segments must add up to 100 percent if percentages are used or to the total number if numbers are used.
The pie chart above shows the percentage of time spent online by various age groups. When composing pie charts, try to restrict the number of slices in the pie. Ideally, the largest or most important slice of the pie, the segment you want to emphasize, is placed at the twelve o'clock position; the rest are arranged clockwise either in order of size or in some other logical progression. Use different colors or patterns to distinguish the various pieces. If you want to draw attention to the segment that is of the greatest interest to your readers, use a brighter color for that segment, draw an arrow to the segment, or explode it; that is, pull the segment away from the rest of the pie. In any case, label all the segments and indicate their value in either percentages or units of measure so that your readers will be able to judge the value of the wedges. Remember, the segments must add up to 100 percent if percentages are used or to the total number if numbers are used.
If you need to show physical or conceptual relationships rather than numerical ones, you might want to use a flow chart or an organization chart. As the name implies, an organization chart illustrates the positions, units, or functions of an organization and the way they interrelate. A flowchart illustrates a sequence of events from start to finish; it is indispensable when illustrating processes, procedures, and sequential relationships.
The flow chart above diagrams the report-writing process. It shows that the various elements in the process you want to portray may be represented by pictorial symbols or geometric shapes.
An organization's normal communication channels are almost impossible to describe without the benefit of an organization chart like the one above.
For certain applications, maps are ideal. One of the most common uses is to show concentrations of something by geographic area. In your own reports, you might use maps to show regional differences in such variables as your company's sales of a product, or you might indicate proposed plant sites and their relationship to key markets.
Although less commonly used than other visual aids, drawings, diagrams, and photographs can also be valuable elements in business reports and presentations. Drawings and diagrams are most often used to show how something looks or operates. Photographs have always been popular in certain types of business documents, such as annual reports, where their visual appeal is used to capture reader interest. However, in some situations a photograph may show too much detail. This is one reason that repair manuals frequently use drawings instead of photos. With a drawing, you can select how much detail to show and focus the reader's attention on particular parts or places. Technology makes it easier to use photographs in reports and presentations, but it also presents an important ethical concern. Software tools make it easy for computer users to make dramatic changes to photos—without leaving a clue that they’ve been altered. As you do when using other technological tools, stop and ask yourself where the truth lies before you start making changes.
Computer animation and video are among the most specialized forms of business visuals. You won't encounter many situations that require them, but when they are appropriate and done well, they offer unparalleled visual impact. At a simple level, you can animate shapes and text within Microsoft PowerPoint, although the possibilities are somewhat limited—plus, it's easy to create animations that are more distracting than useful. At a more sophisticated level, software such as Macromedia Flash enables the creation of multimedia files that include computer animation, digital video, and other elements. A wide variety of tools are also available for digital video production. Chances are you won't have to use these tools yourself, but if you do employ a specialist to create animation or video for websites or presentations, make sure the results follow all the guidelines for effective business messages.
Technology has put powerful graphics tools in the hands of virtually every business computer user. That’s the good news. The bad news is that computers can’t provide the specialized training and hands-on experience of a professional designer. Computers make it easy to create visuals, but they also make it easy to create bad visuals. However, by following some basic advice and design principles, you can create all the basic visuals you need—visuals that are both attractive and effective: Have a professional designer create templates or style guides that you can use for recurring tasks. Be careful with the templates that are included with some commercial software programs; some are cluttered and inappropriate for serious business uses. Use colors, shapes, fonts, and other elements consistently. To emphasize differences, use contrasting colors. To emphasize similarities, use complementary or similar colors. Try to balance design elements so that pages or screens don’t look cramped or lopsided. Select colors and other design elements carefully to emphasize major points and de-emphasize minor points. Avoid chartjunk, decorative elements that clutter documents without adding any relevant information. Understand the expectations of your audience.
In addition to creating effective visuals, make sure your visuals are smoothly integrated with the text. First, try to position your visuals so that your audience won’t have to flip back and forth (in printed documents) or scroll (on screen) between the visuals and the text. Second, clearly refer to visuals by number in the text of your report, and help your readers understand the significance of visuals by referring to them before readers encounter them in the document or on the screen. Third, write effective titles , captions , and legends to complete the integration of your text and visuals. A title provides a short description that identifies the content and purpose of the visual. A caption usually offers additional discussion of the visual’s content and can be several sentences long if appropriate. A legend helps readers “decode” the visual by explaining what various colors, symbols, or other design choices mean.
A formal report's manuscript format and impersonal tone convey an impression of professionalism. A formal report can be either short (fewer than 10 pages) or long (10 pages or more). It can be informational or analytical, direct or indirect. It may be written for internal or external audiences. What sets it apart from other reports is its polish. The parts included in a report depend on the type of report you are writing, the requirements of your audience, the organization you're working for, and the length of your report. The components fall into three categories, depending on where they are found in a report: prefatory parts, text of the report, and supplementary parts.
Many companies have standard covers for reports. If your company has no standard covers, look for a cover that is appropriate to the subject matter. The title fly is a plain sheet of paper with only the title of the report on it. You don't really need one, but it adds a touch of formality. The title page includes four blocks of information: (1) title of the report; (2) name, title, and address of the person, group, or organization that authorized the report; (3) name, title, and address of the person, group, or organization that prepared the report; and (4) date on which the report was submitted. The letter or memo of authorization is a document requesting that a report be prepared. The letter or memo of transmittal conveys your report to your audience. The table of contents indicates in outline form the coverage, sequence, and relative importance of the information in the report. Some reports refer to all visual aids as illustrations or exhibits. In some, tables are labeled separately from figures. Regardless of the system used to label visual aids, the list of illustrations gives their titles and page numbers. A brief overview of a report's most important points is called a synopsis (or abstract in technical or academic reports). An executive summary is a fully developed &quot;mini&quot; version of the report.
Although reports may contain a variety of components, the heart of a report is always composed of three main parts: an introduction, body, and conclusion. A good introduction helps the reader follow and comprehend the information that follows. It invites the audience to continue reading by telling them what the report is about, why the audience should be concerned, and how the report is organized. The body section contains the information that supports your conclusions and recommendations as well as your analysis, logic, and interpretation of the information. Most inexperienced writers have a tendency to include too much data in their reports or place too much data in paragraph format instead of using tables and charts. Such treatment increases the chance of boring or losing the audience. If you find yourself with too much information, include only the essential supporting data in the body, use visuals, and place any additional information in an appendix. In very general terms, you want the closing of your report to summarize the main idea of your report, highlight your conclusions or recommendations, and list any courses of action you expect the reader to take.
Supplementary parts follow the text of the report and provide information for readers who seek more detailed discussion. Supplements are more common in long reports than in short ones, and typically include the appendixes, bibliography, and index. An appendix contains materials related to the report but not included in the text because they're too lengthy or bulky or because they lack direct relevance. Frequently included in appendixes are sample questionnaires and cover letters, sample forms, computer printouts, statistical formulas, financial statements and spreadsheets, copies of important documents, and complex illustrations; a glossary may be put in an appendix or may stand as a separate supplementary part. The best place to include visual aids is in the text body nearest the point of discussion. But if any visuals are too large to fit on one page or are only indirectly relevant to your report, they too may be put in an appendix. You have an ethical and a legal obligation to give other people credit for their work. A bibliography is a list of secondary sources consulted when preparing the report. An index is an alphabetical list of names, places, and subjects mentioned in the report, along with the pages on which they occur (see the index for this book). An index is rarely included in unpublished reports.
Formal proposals contain many of the same components as other formal reports, but the special nature of proposals does require some unique elements. The cover, title fly, title page, table of contents, and list of illustrations are handled the same as in other formal reports. However, other prefatory parts are handled quite differently, such as the copy of the RFP, the synopsis or executive summary, and the letter of transmittal. Copy of the RFP. Instead of having a letter of authorization, a solicited proposal should follow whatever instructions are in the request for proposals. In some cases, the issuer of the RFP will tell you to include the entire RFP in your proposal; others may want you to simply identify it by a name and tracking number. Synopsis or executive summary. Although you may include a synopsis or an executive summary, these components are often less useful in a formal proposal than in a report. In an unsolicited proposal, your transmittal letter will already have caught the reader’s interest. In a solicited proposal, the introduction would provide an adequate preview of the contents. Letter of transmittal. If the proposal is solicited, the transmittal letter follows the pattern for good-news messages, highlighting those aspects of your proposal that may give you a competitive advantage. If the proposal is unsolicited, the transmittal letter should follow the advice you learned for persuasive messages (see Chapter 9). The letter must persuade the reader that you have something worthwhile to offer that justifies reading the entire proposal.
Just as with reports, the text of a proposal is composed of three main parts: an introduction, body, and conclusion. The content and depth of the parts depend on whether the proposal is solicited or unsolicited, formal or informal. Introduction. This section presents and summarizes the problem you intend to solve and your solution to that problem, including any benefits the reader will receive from the solution. Body. This section explains the complete details of the solution: how the job will be done, how it will be broken into tasks, what method will be used to do it (including the required equipment, material, and personnel), when the work will begin and end, How much the entire job will cost (including a detailed breakdown), and why your company is qualified. Closing. This section emphasizes the benefits that readers will realize from your solution, and it urges readers to act.
Once you have assembled all the various components of your report or proposal, revised the entire document’s content for clarity and conciseness, and designed the document to please readers, you have essentially produced your document in its final form. Now you need to review the entire document thoroughly one last time, looking for inconsistencies, errors, and missing components. Proofreading your report is pretty much the same as proofreading any business message—check for typos, spelling errors, and mistakes in punctuation. However, reports often have elements that may not be included in other messages, so don't forget to proof your visual aids thoroughly. Make sure your text is laid out on the page in a clear, uncluttered fashion. You’ll also want to make sure that nothing has been left out or overlooked, and that every word contributes to your report's purpose.
For physical distribution, consider spending the few extra dollars for a professional courier or package delivery service, if that will help your document stand apart from the crowd. On the other hand, if you've prepared the document for a single person or small group, delivering it in person can be a nice touch. Not only can you answer any immediate questions about it, but you can also promote the results in person—reminding the recipient of the benefits contained in your report or proposal. For electronic distribution, unless your audience specifically requests a word processor file, provide documents in PDF format. Most people are reluctant to open word processor files these days, particularly from outsiders, given their vulnerability to macro viruses and other contaminations. Moreover, PDF format lets you control how your document is displayed on your audience’s computer, ensuring that your readers see your document as you intended. If your company or client expect you do distribute your reports via a web-based content management system, intranet, or extranet, be sure to upload the correct file(s) to the correct online location. Verify the on-screen display of your report after you've posted it, too; make sure graphics, charts, links, and other elements are in place and operational.
This chapter discusses the essential tasks in the second and third steps of the three-step process: writing and completing reports and proposals. Writing includes the familiar tasks of adapting to your audience and composing your content, with additional advice on helping readers find their way and using technology to craft reports and proposals. The chapter continues with an introduction to supporting your reports with visuals, from tables to various charts to animation and video. The chapter concludes with a look at the tasks involved in completing reports and proposals, including assembling the prefatory and supplementary parts that precede and follow the main text. Proofreading and distributing wrap up the discussion.
Writing and Completing Reports and Proposals
Three-Step Writing Process Planning Writing Completing Analyze Situation Gather Information Select Medium Get Organized Revise Produce Proofread Distribute Analyze the Audience Compose the Message
Reports and Proposals Long Message Formats Effective Visual Support
Adapting to the Audience Sensitivity to Needs The “You” Attitude Business Etiquette Positive Attitude Bias-Free Language
Composing Reports and proposals Effective Words Strong Sentences Coherent Paragraphs
Introductory Section Report Context Main Ideas Subject/Purpose Overall Tone
The Body Section Present Analyze Interpret Support
The Closing Section <ul><li>Stress Main Points </li></ul><ul><li>Summarize Benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Reinforce Structure </li></ul><ul><li>Group Action Items </li></ul>
Drafting Report Content Balanced Logical Documented Accurate Complete
Pick the Right Visuals Data and Information Concepts and Ideas
The Parts of a Table Source: (In the same format as a text footnote). *Footnote (for explanation of elements in the table). Stub head Subhead Single Column Head Single Column Head Row head Row head Subhead Subhead Total XXX XXX XXX XXX XX XX XX XX XX XX XX XX Subhead XXX XX XX XXX Multicolumn Head*
Preparing Data Tables Use Common Units Round Numbers Label Columns
Preparing Data Tables Rows and Columns Select Information Document Sources
Line and Surface Charts 100% 80% 60% 2006 2005 2003 2004 Relationships Trends Variables
Information, Concepts, and Ideas Flow Charts Organization Charts Positions Units Functions Processes Procedures Sequences
Flow Chart of the Report Writing Process Keyboard Input First Hard Copy Next Hard Copy Style and Spelling Style and Spelling Keyboard Input/Edit Submit Report Edit Edit Add? OK? Yes No No Yes Keyboard Input/Edit
The Chain of Command District A District B District C District D District E District F District G Region 1 Region 2 Region 3 Region 4 Region 5 Vice President Vice President Vice President Vice President Vice President Chief Executive Officer Executive Vice President Executive Vice President President
Using Maps Geographic Areas Regional Differences Key Markets
Other Business Graphics Drawings or Diagrams Photographic Images Functions Operations Selected Details Realism Visual Appeal Ethical Concerns
Animation and Video Shapes and Text Computer Animation Digital Video
Integrate Text and Visuals Audience Attitudes Overall Purpose Subject Matter Production Issues Integration and Placement Positioning and References Titles, Legends, and Captions
Components of Formal Reports Type of Report Audience Needs Report Length Type of Company Prefatory Parts Text of the Report Supplementary Parts
The Prefatory Parts <ul><li>Report Cover </li></ul><ul><li>Title fly/Title page </li></ul><ul><li>Authorization Letter </li></ul><ul><li>Transmittal Letter </li></ul><ul><li>Table of Contents </li></ul><ul><li>List of Visuals </li></ul><ul><li>Synopsis/Abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Executive Summary </li></ul>
The Text of the Report Introduction Body Closing
Supplementary Parts Appendixes Bibliography Index
Producing a Formal Proposal Unique Prefatory Elements Copy of the RFP Synopsis/ Executive Summary Transmittal Document
The Text of the Proposal Informal Solicited Unsolicited Formal Introduction Body Closing
Proofreading Reports and Proposals Spelling Text Placement Punctuation Visual Aids Inconsistencies Errors/Omissions Missing Components
Distribution of Reports and Proposals Physical Web-Based Electronic
Reviewing Key Points <ul><li>Writing reports and proposals </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting appropriate visual aids </li></ul><ul><li>Completing reports and proposals </li></ul>