Writing a report to a senior manager may scare you a little. And I’d like to tell you that there is nothing to worry about and you’ll do just fine. But I won’t do it. Instead, I’ll warn you about the mistakes you can do during writing your report.
#1 Getting the Assignment Wrong
You really have to ask all questions at the initial stages of your work. It may happen that you won’t have an opportunity to do it later. Just imagine the reaction of your manager when after some time of waiting your result will be entirely different from what they expected. Fixing it will take more time and eventually you can have serious problems.
#2 Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
If you think that a magical red line in Grammarly or in Microsoft Word will indicate each mistake in your report, you could be wrong. Even proper grammar checkers miss some mistakes and misprints. Proofread your report. If you seriously doubt your grammar skills, ask someone to proofread it for you. But even if you will hire a professional editor, you still have to read the final version before you give it to your boss.
#3 Failing to Organize It Logically
Something like ‘This fact is caused by that data influenced by those factors, which, in turn…’ is unacceptable in report writing. Employ some logic – consequences, chronology, etc. It should be clear why you’ve organized your report this or that way. The information you share should be given gradually.
#4 No Structure
A report structure presupposes both including all the necessary parts. They are:
letter of transmittal/executive summary;
table of contents;
the main body;
list of references;
These parts make your report easy to read. For example, if you have a lot of graphs, don’t overload the main body with them. You can always move them to Appendix. Some managers pay the major attention to introduction and conclusion, others to the executive summary, etc. Missing one of report components may confuse your boss.
#5 No Solid Foundation
Your report should rely on valid, up-to-date data. Moreover, the report itself should be reliable. So, you don’t just enumerate facts in it, you analyze them to draw some conclusions. You can learn how to write an analysis paper and use some hints in your report writing.
#6 Writing Like a Writer
As it has been mentioned above, your report is to be logical and informative. Also, writing a report presupposes a particular style. Even if you are not that good at styles, you can see the clear difference between an official document and a piece of literature. Your senior manager will not ‘with patient ears attend’ your beautifully written artwork. Don’t get too creative with stylistic devices – make it simple! Plus, don’t make your report too wordy.
Cliches are an inevitable part of writing formal papers but don’t use them too often. As opposed to this, there is also a strong opinion that the report shouldn’t be written as if a machine has written it. Avoid unnecessary passive voice to prevent it.
#7 Making It Impossible to Scan
There is a big chance your boss won’t have enough time to read all the report. That is why it has to be scanned easily. You can’t make your manager search for information needed for hours, can you? Thus, you have to create enough headings, caption, lists, etc. Making a report scannable is a little harder than with other types of papers. As I have already said, a report presupposes a strict structure. So, you have to combine these requirements, both keeping the structure and using subheadings.
The history of the corporate world has seen the cases when the only one assignment could ruin one’s career. A report to a senior manager is a very peculiar type of assignment. This is a type of corporate communication between two people, but there is nothing personal about it. It is very easy to fail. However, a good report can push you up the career ladder. Be very attentive! The mistakes I’ve touched upon in this article were not taken out of the air. They are a sum of all misunderstandings you may face writing such a report.