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Business and Report Writing Skills

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Business and Report Writing skills, best practice principles, process and format

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Business and Report Writing Skills

  1. 1. BUSINESS AND REPORT WRITING – BEST PRACTICE WRITING PRINCIPLES AND PROCESS CHARLES COTTER FOCUS ROOMS, SUNNINGHILL 28-29 MAY 2015
  2. 2. PRESENTATION OVERVIEW – DAY 1 • www.slideshare.net/CharlesCotter • 20 FUNDAMENTAL, BEST PRACTICE BUSINESS WRITING PRINCIPLES • THE “LOOK AND FEEL” COMPONENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE BUSINESS REPORT • THE 6-STEP, REPORT WRITING PROCESS
  3. 3. CAKE-BAKING ANALOGY • BEST PRACTICE BUSINESS WRITING PRINCIPLES - INGREDIENTS • THE “LOOK AND FEEL” COMPONENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE BUSINESS REPORT – PICTURE OF THE CAKE • THE 6-STEP, REPORT WRITING PROCESS - RECIPE
  4. 4. DOES THIS LOOK FAMILIAR?
  5. 5. LEARNING ACTIVITY 1 • From your experience and perspective, as both a writer and a reader, identify ten (10) common errors that you’ve observed with Business Reports. • Match each of these 10 errors with a set of 10 best practice criteria/guidelines to counteract/improve these errors, thereby promoting effective business report writing.
  6. 6. 20 FUNDAMENTAL, BEST PRACTICE WRITING PRINCIPLES • A – B – C (ACCURACY – BREVITY – CLARITY) – “BE ON POINT AND TO THE POINT” • A – I – D –A (ATTENTION – INTEREST – DESIRE – ACTION) – “TELL THE READER WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO TELL THEM; TELL THEM AND THEN TELL THEM WHAT YOU TOLD THEM.” • “THINK BEFORE YOU INK” – USE 80 (THINKING)/20 (INKING) PRINCIPLE • HARMONIZATION OF THE BEST FIT METHODS – FIT FOR PURPOSE/MESSAGE/READER • BE STRATEGIC AND SELECTIVE - PROVIDE ONLY VALUE ADDING AND RELEVANT INFORMATION
  7. 7. 20 FUNDAMENTAL, BEST PRACTICE WRITING PRINCIPLES • “LESS IS MORE” – HAVE AN EFFICIENT AND ECONOMICAL WRITING STYLE • EMPATHIZE - “CUSTOMIZATION IS KING/QUEEN” – CONDUCT A READERSHIP ANALYSIS TO ACCOMMODATE THEM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – “SPEAK THE LANGUAGE THAT YOUR READER UNDERSTANDS” • INTEGRATE RATIONAL (LEFT BRAIN) AND CREATIVE (RIGHT BRAIN) THOUGHT PROCESSES • MARRY BEING METICULOUS (“EYE FOR DETAIL”) WITH FINDING CREATIVE WRITING SPACE (PSYCHOLOGICAL, EMOTIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL) • USE OF VISUAL STIMULI AND TECHNIQUES TO COMPLEMENT, SUPPORT AND PROMOTE A HIGHER LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING
  8. 8. 20 FUNDAMENTAL, BEST PRACTICE WRITING PRINCIPLES • ENSURE QUALITY ASSURANCE E.G. PROOF-READING; EDITING; SPELL CHECKING AND VERIFICATION OF INFORMATION • USE THE PURPOSE AS YOUR WRITING “GPS” – TO CONCENTRATE/DIRECT FOCUS TO THE ACHIEVEMENT OF OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES • “DON’T WRITE TO IMPRESS, WRITE TO PROMOTE A HIGHER LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING.” – BE A AGENT OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION • EMPLOY A “COMMUNITY OF WRITERS” APPROACH – THE VALUE OF CONSULTATION AND ENGAGEMENT • PROPER STRUCTURE - USE THE PYRAMID (CASCADING) METHOD – INITIALLY PRESENT LESS IMPORTANCE INFORMATION AND CLIMAX WITH MOST CRITICAL INFORMATION
  9. 9. 20 FUNDAMENTAL, BEST PRACTICE WRITING PRINCIPLES • APPLY THE WATERFALL APPROACH – VERTICAL ALIGNMENT AND SYNERGY BETWEEN THE REPORT FINDINGS, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS • “TOUR GUIDE” MENTALITY – DIRECT; NAVIGATE; ORIENTATE, INFORM; ADVISE, ENLIGHTEN AND CAPTIVATE THE READER • ADOPT A STORY TELLING MODE – LOGICAL AND COHERENT FLOW OF INFORMATION – NO SURPRISES! • THE REPORT SHOULD GENERATE BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE – ENABLING SMART OPERATIONAL AND STRATEGIC DECISION-MAKING • ADOPT A STRATEGIC MIND-SET – DEVELOP STRUCTURED, HOLISTIC AND WELL-PREPARED BUSINESS WRITING HABITS
  10. 10. BEST PRACTICE REPORT WRITING (COMPETENCE) CONTENT CONTEXTPROCESS
  11. 11. EFFECTIVE REPORT CONTENT
  12. 12. TYPES OF REPORTS • Informative “Telling” Examples • Evaluative “Selling” Examples
  13. 13. APPROACHES TO REPORT WRITING • Dash-boarding  Data-driven and derived  Report-generating  MS Excel • Key-boarding  Narrative  Report-writing  MS Word
  14. 14. “LOOK AND FEEL” COMPONENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE BUSINESS REPORT • STRUCTURE • STYLE AND TONE • READABILITY • CONVENTION
  15. 15. LEARNING ACTIVITY 2 • Develop the best practice criteria and convention (rules) of an effective business report. Focus on the following elements: Structure Style and tone Readability Convention
  16. 16. STRUCTURE • VARIES DEPENDENT ON WHETHER INFORMATIVE (“TELLING”) OR EVALUATIVE (“SELLING”) TYPE OF BUSINESS REPORT • EXTERNAL STRUCTURE – FRONT-END AND BACK-END • INTERNAL STRUCTURE
  17. 17. EXTERNAL STRUCTURE – FRONT-END • TITLE PAGE • TABLE OF CONTENTS • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  18. 18. EXTERNAL STRUCTURE – BACK-END • GLOSSARY OF TECHNICAL TERMS AND ACRONYMS • LIST OF SOURCES/REFERENCES • ATTACHMENTS – APPENDICES AND ANNEXURES
  19. 19. INTERNAL STRUCTURE • INTRODUCTION • BACKGROUND/CONTEXTUALIZATION • RESEARCH METHODS AND PROCESS • FINDINGS • CONCLUSIONS • RECOMMENDATIONS
  20. 20. STYLE • STYLE IS REGARDED AS THE DEGREE OF FORMALITY • THE APPROPRIATE STYLE IS: FORMAL (NOT INFORMAL) FACTUAL (NOT OPINION-BASED) RATIONAL (NOT EMOTIONAL) – “Connect intellectually with your reader, disconnect your emotions and personal feelings.” OBJECTIVE (NOT SUBJECTIVE)
  21. 21. TONE • TONE IS REGARDED AS THE WRITER’S ATTITUDE – DIRECTED AT READER AND SUBJECT MATTER • TONE SHOULD BE: RESPECTFUL (NOT PATRONIZING) PROFESSIONAL ASSERTIVE (NOT PASSIVE OR AGGRESSIVE)
  22. 22. THE ASSERTIVENESS CONTINUUM
  23. 23. READABILITY • REFERS TO ALL THE ASPECTS THAT MAKE A BUSINESS REPORT MORE NOTICEABLE AND EASY TO READ - “SOFT ON THE EYE AND SOFT ON THE MIND” • MUTUAL DEPENDENCE - THE WRITER RELIES ON THE READERS' ABILITY TO READ EFFICIENTLY AND TO UNDERSTAND THE (INTENDED) MESSAGE. • WRITER NEEDS TO DO EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER TO ENABLE AND FACILITATE A COMMON UNDERSTANDING • TECHNIQUES TO ENHANCE THE READABILITY:  LAY-OUT  USE OF WHITE SPACE  HEADINGS/SUB-HEADINGS  NUMBERING
  24. 24. CONVENTION • USE OF TABLES AND FIGURES – LABELLING, NUMBERING AND REFERENCING • APPENDICES AND ANNEXURES - LABELLING, NUMBERING AND REFERENCING • CITATION AND REFERENCING – HARVARD METHOD – ALWAYS ACKNOWLEDGE SOURCE AND AVOID PLAGRIASM AT ALL COSTS • FORMAT, DESIGN AND LAY-OUT – INDUSTRY AND ORGANIZATION- SPECIFIC GUIDELINES AND TECHNIQUES • USE ACTIVE VOICE (AS OPPOSED TO PASSIVE) – WRITTEN IN THIRD PERSON
  25. 25. CONVENTION • GRAMMATICAL AND LANGUAGE RULES • USE OF ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS • AVOID JARGON AND UNFAMILIAR TECHNICAL TERMINOLOGY • SENTENCE AND PARAGRAPH STRUCTURING
  26. 26. PROPER SENTENCE AND PARAGRAPH STRUCTURING • VARY THE LENGTH OF SENTENCES • EASY TO UNDERSTAND CONCEPTS – SHORTER SENTENCES. COMPLEX CONCEPTS – LONGER SENTENCES TO ENABLE EFFICIENT ASSIMILATION OF INFORMATION • DON’T SUBSTITUTE A FULL-STOP FOR A COMMA – “IF YOU CAN USE A FULL-STOP USE IT!” • ONE CONCEPT/KEY POINT, ONE PARAGRAPH. DIFFERENT CONCEPT, DIFFERENT PARAGRAPH. “DON’T MIX ‘N MATCH – AVOID LIQUORICE ALL- SORTS WRITING STYLE” • CREATE A MEANDERING AND MESMERIZING WRITING STYLE AS YOU TRANSITION FROM ONE PARAGRAPH TO THE NEXT. AS YOU EXIT ONE PARAGRAPH START INTRODUCING THE NEXT ONE.
  27. 27. REPORT WRITING PROCESS • STEP 1: PLANNING • STEP 2: RESEARCHING THINKING (80%) • STEP 3: ORGANIZING • STEP 4: WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT • STEP 5: QUALITY ASSURANCE INKING (20%) • STEP 6: SUBMIT FINAL DRAFT FOR APPROVAL AND ADOPTION
  28. 28. STEP 1: PLANNING (7-W’S) • DEFINE THE PURPOSE (WHY?) • FORMULATE THE OBJECTIVES (WHAT?) • SUBMISSION TARGET DATE (WHEN?) • SUBMISSION AND APPROVAL PLATFORM/COMMITTEE (WHERE?) • SCOPE OF THE REPORT (WIDTH?) • ESTIMATED LENGTH/VOLUME OF REPORT (WEIGHT?) • CONDUCT A READERSHIP ANALYSIS (WHO?)
  29. 29. READERSHIP ANALYSIS (RELATED TO A-B-C) • LEVEL 1 READER/S: APPROVING AUTHORITY (NON-TECHNICAL) – INFORMATION NEED: BREVITY • LEVEL 2 READER/S: TECHNICAL/SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT – INFORMATION NEED: ACCURACY • LEVEL 3 READER/S: IMPLEMENTER/FUNCTIONARY – INFORMATION NEED: CLARITY
  30. 30. STEP 2: RESEARCHING • METHODS – TO ACHIEVE THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PRINCIPLE OF VALIDITY • PROCESS – TO ACHIEVE THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PRINCIPLE OF RELIABILITY • COLLECTIVELY: VALIDITY + RELIABILITY = CREDIBILITY
  31. 31. RESEARCH METHODS • QUANTITATIVE – NUMERIC E.G. STATISTICS • QUALITATIVE – SUBJECTIVE E.G. SURVEYS AND FOCUS GROUPS • SOURCES OF DATA:  ELECTRONIC  DOCUMENTARY  EXPERIMENTAL  HUMAN
  32. 32. RESEARCH PROCESS • STEP 1: DEVELOP A DATA COLLECTION PLAN/STRATEGY • STEP 2: DATA COLLECTION • STEP 3: DATA COLLATION • STEP 4: DATA ANALYSIS LEADS TO FINDINGS • STEP 5: DATA INTERPRETATION LEADS TO CONCLUSIONS • STEP 6: VERIFICATION • STEP 7: PUBLICATION LEADS TO RECOMMENDATIONS
  33. 33. STEP 3: ORGANIZING – 3-S FORMAT • STRUCTURE (OF REPORT) • SEQUENCE (OF REPORT) • SPACING (POSITIONING OF TABLES, FIGURES, ATTACHMENTS TO THE REPORT) • RECOMMENDED ORGANIZING TOOL: MIND-MAPPING • OBJECTIVE: TO ENSURE FLUENCY AND EFFICIENCY IN WRITING WHEN TRANSITIONING FROM THINKING (STEPS 1-3) TO INKING (STEPS 4-6)
  34. 34. MIND-MAPPING EXAMPLE
  35. 35. LEARNING ACTIVITY 3 • By following steps 1-3 of the report writing process, develop a framework/skeleton of a business report for your organization. Step 1: Planning Step 2: Research methodology and process Step 3: Organizing the technical report structure
  36. 36. STEP 4: WRITE FIRST DRAFT • APPLY THE BEST PRACTICE WRITING PRINCIPLES • USE THE APPROPRIATE TECHNICAL REPORT STRUCTURE AND FORMAT
  37. 37. STEP 5: QUALITY ASSURANCE • PROOF-READ AND EDIT THE REPORT • PERFORM A SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION CHECK • CONSULT WITH LANGUAGE AND SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS AND RECEIVE FEEDBACK • MAKE THE NECESSARY REVISIONS • REFER TO THE EVALUATION CHECKLIST (PAGES 49-51 IN THE LEARNER MANUAL)
  38. 38. STEP 6: SUBMISSION AND APPROVAL OF FINAL DRAFT • MAKE THE NECESSARY AMENDMENTS AND WRITE THE FINAL DRAFT • SUBMIT TO HIGHER MANAGEMENT TO AUTHORIZE, APPROVE AND ADOPT THE REPORT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
  39. 39. LEARNING ACTIVITY 4 • By using the following format (as a guideline), write the first draft of a business report on the identified, work- related topic/subject. (step 4 of the business report writing process) • Step 5: Review the report (Submit this report to a fellow learner to get feedback). Readers should use the checklist on pages 49-51 to evaluate the business report. • Step 6: Writing and submitting the final draft (Based on the feedback from the fellow learner, make the necessary amendments and write the final draft)
  40. 40. PRESENTATION OVERVIEW – DAY 2 • Effective business letter writing • Effective Memorandum writing • Effective e-mail communication • Effective minute-taking
  41. 41. MINUTE-TAKING FUNDAMENTALS • The scope of minutes • Tips and warnings • The criteria of effective minutes
  42. 42. LEARNING ACTIVITY 5 • Identify some of the foremost challenges when taking, transcribing and writing meeting minutes. • For each of these challenges develop a viable solution/strategy to overcome these challenges. • Compile a list of 10 best practice criteria for good quality minutes.
  43. 43. BEST PRACTICE GUIDELINES FOR MINUTE-TAKERS • Preparation (pre-meeting) • Transcribing (during meeting) • Writing minutes (after the meeting)
  44. 44. LEARNING ACTIVITY 6 • By referring to the best practice list of guidelines for effectively taking, transcribing and writing meetings minutes, conduct a 15 minute, mock meeting. Nominate the roles of Chairperson, Secretary and Participants. • The Secretary should record and write-up the minutes. • By referring to the best practice checklist (Learning Activity 5), the other group members will constructively evaluate these meetings and provide feedback.
  45. 45. E-MAIL COMMUNICATION
  46. 46. FUNDAMENTALS OF E-MAIL COMMUNICATION • Guidelines to improve e-mail writing skills • Writing professional e-mails • Improving your e-mail writing style • Writing business e-mails • Golden Rules of Email Etiquette
  47. 47. GUIDELINES TO EFFECTIVE E-MAIL COMMUNICATION
  48. 48. LEARNING ACTIVITY 7 • Identify some of the common mistakes made by e- mail senders that cause/create irritation and frustration on the part of the recipients. For each of these common mistakes identify an improvement strategy.
  49. 49. • Do not, under any circumstances, forward chain letters • Respond to group e-mails appropriately • Use actual English • Don’t use your company e-mail for private e-mails • Utilize CC and BCC properly • Be careful what you say
  50. 50. • Lose the attitude • Don’t be a spammer • Respect laws and regulations • Get clarification • Delete unnecessary content • Keep signatures simple
  51. 51. LEARNING ACTIVITY 8 • Develop a Code of Good Practice: Proper and Professional e-mail Etiquette (10 principles) for all e-mail users at your organization.
  52. 52. DRAFTING PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS LETTERS AND MEMORANDUMS • Business Letter format - Block • Refer to Sample Business Letter • Business letter writing guidelines
  53. 53. BUSINESS LETTER WRITING GUIDELINES • Use a professional tone • Write clearly • Organize your information logically • Be persuasive • Proofread your letter • Useful phrases and vocabulary for writing business letters
  54. 54. WRITING MEMORANDUM’S • Purpose of Memo’s • Written well, business memo’s are an efficient, effective way to communicate within an organization. • Memo Sections Heading Opening Body Closing
  55. 55. MEMORANDUM FORMAT
  56. 56. LEARNING ACTIVITY 9 • Develop a set of 10 best practice criteria/guidelines for effective business letter writing. • Develop a set of 10 best practice criteria/guidelines for effective Memorandum writing.
  57. 57. CONCLUSION • SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS • LEARNING “TAKE-AWAYS" • QUESTIONS • TRAINING ADMINISTRATION • CERTIFICATION • THANK YOU!
  58. 58. CONTACT DETAILS • CHARLES COTTER • +27 84 562 9446 • charlescot@polka.co.za • LINKED IN • TWITTER: Charles_Cotter

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