Report writing requires a different kind of thinking. You have to think what a report is and is not. Business communication authors often narrowly define a report as trying to solve a problem and helping decision makers. With that definition, many documents do not qualify as reports. For example, a term paper in the strictest sense is not a report. The term paper does not try to solve a problem, except the student satisfying the professor's request for completing a document within so many words and pages. The term paper does not help decision makers in a firm, only the professor determining a grade for the paper based on established criteria.
The following documents, though, do qualify as reports:
Each document represents a uniqueness. The prospectus is written so that a prospective investor (decision maker) can look at the framework of a company, including its management, finances, and potential. These days the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) expects the prospectus and financial disclosure statements to be written in plain English to help the individual investor or company.
When your boss asks you to go to a seminar or a trade show, you may have to write a trip report when you return. You include the dates, expenses, and gained knowledge. You want your boss (decision maker) to know you realized valuable knowledge from the trip. You expect to be compensated for your expenses, if you can justify the time and knowledge.
Let's say you attend a meeting. A record is usually kept of those proceedings. Those records are referred to as minutes. If you cannot attend the meeting, you want to find out as a member (potential decision maker because of voting) what occurred. The minutes may be placed on e-mail or contained on hard copy. You want to know who attended, what was discussed, and what decisions were made. Minutes serve as a valuable adjunct and reminder to the proceedings.
Our textbook author listed a number of kinds of reports. These kinds of reports represent types. These classifications of reports include situational, periodic, investigative, justification, and yardstick. Have you ever thought about how many types of reports (specific ones) exist? Our society is rampant with types of reports. Almost any kind of living may require the need for a report. For fun let's list some types of reports:
For instance, suppose a report writer penned the following question: "What would be a fair sales equity system that, after implementation, would help the ABC Company, Culver City achieve understanding with the employees?" Two points come to mind immediately in looking at this problem question:
In this report I intend to develop some feasible solutions to solve the problem of increased car theft on Lindley Street.
Comments: Notice that the "I" is buried within the sentence when you write purpose. The "I" does not begin the sentence. The sentence also defines the problem "of increased car theft" rather than saying we want to solve the problem and offer a solution. Now, let's consider the next example:
"Survey results and observations enable Moorpark Gasoline to select more efficient ways of merchandising, by informing the manager of what the customers want from their purchases and the service the customers received from the employees." In the previous example the "I" is not even used. "I" is assumed without your even saying it. Who else is writing the purpose? You are the writer without having to say "I."
Comments: We read immediately from the previous sentence the gas station wants to find out why customers are not satisfied with their purchases and service. That is purpose. That statement makes it clear to the reader why the report is being written. Also, note the previous sentence was written in the present tense for immediacy.
In the Definition paragraphs you want to define your terms. A term can be defined by the dictionary or functionally. If we say an eye is to see, we are defining the term functionally. That's the way you want to define your terms for the report. Dream up your own definitions that will fit the environment or organization you are studying. Underline each term and use verbs, such as suggests, defines, means, describes, or refers to. You do not always have to define terms by using is or are. Other ways exist to define the terms. Err on the side of defining too many terms than not enough. We can always reduce the number of terms later.
How do you decide what terms to define? Every report should have some terms some lay person does not understand. For example, I heard on television the term and acronym, DOG. It had nothing to do with an animal. It meant the Department of Oil and Gas (DOG) that apparently oversees certain wells and well cappings related to the building of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Belmont Complex and its resultant foul-ups. To define that terms if you were writing a report on LAUSD construction, you would need to say more than DOG means. You have to explain the workings of the department and how is overseeing affected the school district. We call that a functional definition.
Now let's return to a report you might write. You are talking about the effect on employee morale of a particular personnel or human relations decision. You need to define employee morale. Employee morale is not what you find in a management textbook. That represents a dictionary definition. You need to define employee morale as used in your company and with your employees. We are not interested in employee morale as an abstract concept. Maybe you meant the inability of management to post job offerings on the bulletin board. Is that employee morale? By clarifying the terms used in your report, you are setting the stage for understanding from the part of your report reader.
The report concentratesIn the last instance, the report "encompasses," the grievous offense of personality is probably not as bad as the other examples. Avoid at all costs giving personality to the report. The report does not do anything. Words, such as "considers," "includes," and "concerns," appear less grating on the ear and less obstrusive to the eye. We can write without asking the report to get up from the desk and come talk to us.
The report attempts to describe
The report surveys
The report examines
The report analyzes
The report contemplates
The report shows
The report encompasses
This past semester I had a chance to reflect on some of the students' reports. Certain reports could have been stronger in the beginning if the students had remembered the admonition about limiting the subject. I will never forget an excellent report about teenage pregnancies. The student wanted to study teenage pregnancies in the entire United States. I explained that we did not want to write a term paper. The student dutifully wrote the first draft of the first report section through the Alternatives (Procedures). I urged the student to limit the topic and confine the data gathering to one high school. The student eventually told me she had settled on a high school near her residence. Still, the next draft of the second, third, and fourth sections of the report reflected the broadening instead of narrowing emphasis in the report. I again cautioned limiting to one high school.
The Analysis and Decisions part of the report would be much stronger with just the data from the teenagers at the one high school. We cannot save the whole world in one report. We must eliminate the mishmash of information that creeps into an otherwise well-crafted report. In time, the report presented a well-balanced emphasis with the one high school and its teenagers only included.
The last section of your Introduction is called the Alternatives (previously called the Procedures or Methodology). Here, you tell how you are going to gather the data. You specify whether you are using a survey and whether you are using questionnaires, interview guides, or combinations. You tell how many people you are going to interview or question. You give specific numbers, which represent a contract between you and the professor. You don't tell the exact questions, but you explain the makeup of the questions. You mention any secondary data that will be particularly helpful. You mention any company reports or documents and periods of time you will study.
When you write the Considerations, or what we used to call Findings, chapter, you are faced with reporting data. Data require a special kind of reporting. Let's say you want to report the following data: 72 percent of the respondents believe we need a shopping center on campus. First, you have to report the numbers and then the percentages. The sentence should read: Forty-eight respondents (72 percent) believe a shopping center would be desirable on the campus. Please also note that the number at the beginning of the sentence had to be written in words, not numbers. That is an exception to the rule of writing numbers over 10 in numerals.
In the Considerations you need to first report the primary data. Those would be the data that concern your interviews and questionnaires. Let's say you gathered data from 50 respondents. Report those data in appropriate paragraphs. Then, take care of the secondary data. That would be what magazines, newspapers, the Internet, and books say about your subject.
Suppose you have some quotes from your interviews that would work well in your Considerations. Select certain quotes and integrate them In talking with Manager A he reported the following about our company: ". . . . . . " Remember that primary data always concern what you have gathered, not what someone else said in a magazine or whatever about the subject.
When you write your Considerations, you are immediately faced with how much and what to include. You include most of your data. The memo length of five pages maximum precludes you from including every piece of data unless you have room. In writing the Considerations, make sure you make frequent reference to the visuals contained in the Attachments. Frequent reference means more than twice. Be careful about stating the following phrase: Table 1 shows . . . The table is an inanimate object, and it does not "show" anything. Instead, write: The data in Table 1 (Attachment A) suggest that large numbers of business students are . . Another way to express the information might include: Based on the data collected through the interviews, 14 employees believe the morale is suffering within the organization (Attachment B-Figure 1).
Attachments should have their own title pages. These title pages are placed before the visuals, the questions, or whatever. The word, ATTACHMENT A, and double spaced below it in Principal Letters, (e.g. Respondents' Answers to Questions about Crime) are placed "smack dab in the middle of the page." On the next page will appear the table or figure all properly laid out with Table/Figure Number and Title. You may also occasionally write double spaced below ATTACHMENT the words Table 1 or Figure 1 without naming the visual. The naming of the visual will occur on the next page anyway.
According to the surveys and interviews, an overwhelming change needs to be made in the way sales training is presented. The reason for this is because telecommunications technology tends to be highly technical and complex.
Comments: If one critically reads the Considerations (Findings) of this writer, nowhere did a discussion about telecommunications technology being highly sophisticated occur. Furthermore, the writer of this piece should not use the word, "overwhelming." We can characterize the data too much. Be careful of superlatives. Do not place any new information in the Analysis or the Decision.
The next passage from another report takes an entirely different tack. It, matter of factly, lays out the evidence as conclusions:
As a result of the interviews, a significant number of users want more out of their computer system than currently provided. Looking at the data from automation, the respondents wanted some other feature not provided with the current system. Users need to use tools they see and read about from other sources. They want to customize their environment to their specific needs and not to a general environment for all users. The database program does not meet the needs of fund-raising for the Company. Users want more interaction and utilities, so they can manage their donors effectively. They need instant access to their clients to formulate the correct donor solicitation.
Comments: Please observe in the previous passage the writer did not attempt to use weasel words, such as most, many, several, and some. These words always need precise definitions followed in parentheses. When the writer says "users," he or she is meaning the major portion of the respondents preferred this solution. The writer speaks with authority, because the data presented have him or her saying something worthwhile. Little attempt is made to write the passage as a recommendation. The recommendations are suggested by the forcefulness of the conclusions.
At least three major logical fallacies create trouble in writing the Analysis. They can broken down in the following way:
The organization can either provide a smoke-free environment or not.
As with the Analysis, Decisions are not a long section of the memo. The Decisions may be numbered as long as an introductory sentence is given. A report completed in the past had three recommendations for creating safer conditions for driving in a particular neighborhood. The researcher had carefully polled each of the sets of respondents and recommended the following to the City Council or appropriate body:
The California Vehicle Code conflicts with itself with the Code explained in Section 2. I suggest the Code be rewritten to say:
I believe this revision makes the Code less ambiguous regarding liability in the event of an accident occurring.
Comments: The student has definitely written a specific recommendation in the previous recommendation. He or she can take that rewriting of the Code to the City Council of the respective area and present why this code needs rewriting. The student has not stopped in his recommendation by simply saying the Code needs rewriting. The student has given specifics about the exact rewording of the code.
In the next passage about Decisions, the writer is faced with making recommendations about how to attract clients to the Karate Studio. This section requires extreme care because the writer does not want to make recommendations he cannot support. Here's the passage:
Ventura Karate should immediately establish a private lesson program for new students. Because potential students are interested in private instruction, Ventura should study the cost of offering free, private lessons with sign-up. An introductory private lesson with a Black Belt instructor would be a strong motivational tool for new students. The lesson could serve more than one purpose, such as familiarizing the students with the Rules and Regulations of the studio. The lesson may be offered with regular sign-up packages or similar promotions. Competing karate schools currently offer private lessons for new students, and Ventura has previously offered these lessons as well. Potential students perceive private instruction to be beneficial, and, therefore, Ventura should consider these previous recommendations.
Comments: Please note the writer starts out with the strongest recommendation about establishing a private lesson program. Then, all other ideas follow from that. Please observe the writer gives specific examples of how that private lesson program will be implemented. The reader is not left with doubts about how the Studio can find more clients. The recommendations succeed for that reason. They give specifics, and at the same time, allow reader to implement the suggestions clearly. The writer also did his homework by checking other karate studios and understanding the makeup of his own studio.
"Reports should be clear, concise, objective and understandable." "The Laboratory should pursue accreditation at the earliest possible time."
Think about: In the previous first sentence the report writer has relied on "should be" as the only verb within the sentence. "Should be" begs the question. Either the reports for the FBI Lab are clear and concise or not. In the second sentence the report writer has become more careful and introduced the main verb as "pursue" to accommodate the problem with "should." Unfortunately, the report writer has relied on the worn-out phrase, "at the earliest possible time" to complete the sentence.
The report writer in the first instance needed to reconstruct the sentence: FBI laboratory reports need clear, concise, objective, and understandable writing. The report writer has now "punched" the sentence with some emphasis. Suppose the second sentence had been rewritten: "The Laboratory requires accreditation soon." Notice how much shorter the sentence is with the revision. Does the sentence give the same meaning. Report writers often use "should be" when they may not want to be held accountable for the report's results.
The Background to the Office of Inspector General's FBI Lab Report contains some convoluted sentences that take the reader forever to digest. Let's take an example:
"At the outset, the Inspector General emphasized that the investigation would not be restricted to the Whitehurst's (editor's note: former FBI Supervisory Special Agent with doctorate in chemistry and made serious allegations) specific allegations, and that the report would also address any other pertinent issues identified in the course of the investigation and comment on ways to further enhance the quality of the Laboratory's work."
Think about: The report writer seems to be talking about Purpose. Also, one could surmise that Scope is implied in this one, long sentence. The report writer forgot about one idea to a sentence, please. At the phrase, "and that the report," a new sentence could have been constructed. Can you construct the new sentence? Notice how the use of prepositions (in, of, to, of) add to the length of the sentence. Check the Web for the possible answer after you have done the exercise.
To: Dr. G. Jay Christensen From: Julie E. Student Date: Current Subject: FINAL ANALYTICAL REPORT Introduction This memo concerns the completion of the final analytical report, "Increasing Door-to-Door Sales at Excellent Service Promotions (ESP), Chatsworth. Salespeople at Excellent Service Promotions require major techniques of selling products door-to-door. Poorly skilled sellers result in low sales, little income, and high resignations at ESP. How can door-to-door sales of coupon booklets at ESP be increased to an optimal level?ESP Needs Training ProceduresLow sales result from ESP's needed training procedures. Most sellers are not properly trained. Many of the sellers don't possess prior selling experience. In my two years at ESP, I've noticed strikingly low sales among many of the sellers. Therefore, I have decided to discover the issues about these proper training procedures and find a solution to implementing better procedures.Terms Need ClarificationESP is a promotion company based in Chatsworth, employing independent contractors to sell automotive service specials door-to-door. Door- to-door sales involve knocking on doors to find customers, rather than over the telephone or at a store. Coupon books or sometimes called automotive service specials are what ESP sells, and these booklets give the buyer free automotive services at a local car care center, such as Unocal 76 or a Shell station. District manager refers to the person in charge of taking a group of sellers to an area to sell. The Close becomes the most important element of a sale when sellers conclude their sale by asking the buyer to perform an action, such as filling out a form.Sellers Provide the InformationThis report concerns the need to retrain all sellers at ESP on such topics as approaching buyers, presenting buyers with information and, most importantly, closing sales. This report does not consider the East Los Angeles branch of ESP and its employees. Only the Chatsworth office will be considered. The report includes only door-to-door sales, not telemarketing and retail sales. A group of 15 sellers completes my survey on their selling abilities and overall experience at ESP. The surveys include opinion-gathering questions to examine the overall working atmosphere at ESP. The survey also includes multiple choice and scale-based questions designed to trace the seller's present selling abilities. I combine these data with facts and references from books on improving sales and an interview with ESP's two owners.ConsiderationsSurveys Help Increase Sales at ESPAfter breaking down the information from the 15 surveys, I found overall sales levels are low at ESP. Responses to the number of sales made for the past four weeks appear in Table 1, Attachment A. Only three sales- people have sold at least 49 coupon books in the past four weeks. Only one out of 15 sellers who completed a survey shows up in the high range with over 100 sales in the past four weeks. Survey Portrays Selling Skills Using a series of true or false questions, I tested the selling skills of the ESP employees. Table 2, Attachment B, lists these questions as well as the number of correct answers. In question 1 about appearance, 10 of the 15 respondents believe dress is not crucial. The sellers are equally divided about whether to use one sales pitch, while they do not know which pitch is preferred. Tweleve of the 15 respondents readily accept the statement they try to motivate the buyers. Question 3 on Table 1 asks sellers how they deal with buyers who cannot make up their minds. All respondents answered they do not accept the idea of closing the sale rather than having the buyers keep talking about the product. All the sellers fall victim to what Sal Massimino calls the "closing block" in his book, The Complete Book of Closing Sales(New York: AMACOM, 1981, p. 73). He notes that sellers "get tired of closing, and they cut the sizzle out of their sales" (Massimino, The Complete Book of Closing Sales, p. 75). To break this closing block, Massimino believes that "no sales can be made until you ask for the order" (The Complete Book of Closing Sales, New York: AMACOM, 1981, p. 77). Survey Mentions Flexibility Skills Six (40 percent) of the sellers avoid one pitch, which I labeled as flexibility in selling. They repeat the same lines to every buyer, and after a while, it becomes evident to the buyers this seller is not for real. Two elements come into play for each sales, according to Paul Micali in The Lacy Techniques of Salesmanship. They are: product knowledge and the salesperson's role (Micali, New York: W. P. Dutton, 1982, p. 35). Training Sessions Provide HelpToward the end of the survey, I asked the sellers whether they would attend training seminars if the courses were available to them. Eleven of the 15 respondents expressed interest in the seminars and would attend (Figure 1, Attachment C). According to Figure 2, Attachment D, the sellers prefer motivation, customer rejections, and closing sales as the subjects where the most training is needed. Seventy-two percent of the sellers who want training desire the education in motivation, closing customer rejections, and closing sales.ESP Motivates SellersIn my survey I asked the sellers an open-ended question to get feedback on increasing sales at the company. In two cases, I came across the word, motivation. One saller participant wrote, "pump us up before sellling," while another wrote "more motivation." As my manager, Bob Kotizee suggested, one of the best methods to motivate sellers is having company gatherings, such as baseball games. Mr. Kotizee mentioned retraining is quite important when he said: "If we increase sales through retraining, motivation should be a footstep away." Only 7 percent of the surveyed sellers remain at an optimal sales level, with 80 percent at very low volume and the remaining 13 percent in between the other two.Sellers Attend SchoolIn deciding how much training to provide, it must be noted that ten out of fifteen sellers (67 percent) are presently attending school, such as four-year or two-year community college. If books on sales were made available at work, seven out of fifteen (47 percent) would read the entire book. The remaining eight seller participants (53 percent) would at least scan the books.Technology Helps in TrainingIn my opinion, two effective ways exist to increase training produc- tivity, using some simple technological devices, such as the cassette recorder and the video. In Massimino's book, The Complete Book of Closing Sales, he suggest the method of having salespeople record their voice while selling. Sales managers then listen to the tape and help the sellers with what the managers believe needs improvement.Analysis In this report, the following conclusions appear apparent: 1. All respondents to the survey do not know the importance of closing a sale, and would not try to close an indecisive buyer. 2. Learning from books seems popular among the surveyed sellers at ESP, because the majority (67 percent) of them currently attend school. 3. Creativity and personal style seem to be ignored by almost half of the employees at ESP, and that fact contributes to what would be called low sales levels. 4. The surveyed sellers do not know they need help, because most of the low motivation is causing what could be termed closing block. 5. Sellers have set inflexible standards of communicating with the buyers, and these sellers would prefer these methods than using creativity and style in their talking. 6. Motivational level at ESP seems to be a big factor in low sales volumes. At least one quarter of the surveyed sellers seek guidance with increasing their motivational levels. 7. The surveyed sellers agree to and desire training sessions at ESP. 8. Training sessions must be designed to help sellers fulfill their educational needs. 9. Because 10 out of 15 sellers are currently attending school, learning sales books provided to these sellers will benefit their helpful sales techniques on the employee's own initiative. 10. Because surveyed sellers need training in areas, such as regularly closing sales, ESP must consider training its sellers until they have reached their maximum productivity. Decisions The following calculation should be used to find out the commission of sellers: [present commission + (months employed/3}\]. For instance, if John, an employee, is current making $8 per sale and has been with the company for six months, his commission would become: [8+6/3] or $10.Sellers Need Further MotivationAnother way of motivating the sellers is providing them with benefits. All sellers need to receive one free meal of their choice, not to exceed $5, every day at work. ESP needs to get the sellers together once in a while, such as a trip to Las Vegas, or to a ball game. ESP should be obligated to pay for the cost of travel and food for company trips, and room and board remains the responsibility of the sellers. Now, sellers pay for all their expenses on company trips, and no free meals are provided for them at work.Sellers Need Bookshelf LearningBecause learning from books seems popular among student sellers, a book- shelf and a series of books need to be purchased and placed in the waiting room at ESP. These books should be mainly on closing sales, but could include appearance, communication skills, and other such books on business. Instructional videotapes and audio/video recorders will give the managers power of training without being formally at a seminar. The videos will include subjects, such as dealing with rejections and closing sales. ESP can introduce the top seller of the month in selected videos to reward those doing well. Tape recorders will be carried by sellers while they work and used to record their sales talk (with permission of client). Going over this recording can be done either one on one or in groups, both run by the district manager.
Did you notice the report writer gave specifics about how to entice the sellers with benefits? That part of the Decisions appeared stronger than the first paragraph. The report writer got caught in the paragraph about the videotapes. The tapes already exist, and the report writer should have acknowledged that fact.
Cleverly, the report writer finished with comments about how the videotape could be incorporated with the top seller of the month. That was creativity at work.
BONUS QUESTION FOR WEEK 13
As mentioned in class, you now have a chance to earn a point. The question is:
You look at the following sentences in the Considerations part of the report: "Clearly, the data show the employees are stealing from the company. The valuable responses from the employees suggest something needs to be done and fast."
What principle of data presentation is violated in the previous passage? What trap did the writer fall in?
- Transmittal Memo
- Executive Summary
- The Full Report in Memo Form (page numbered)
- Survey Questions
- Other Material
- Interview Questions and Responses (keyboarded)
Also, make sure you label the manila envelope with each of its contents (in detail) plus the disk and the deletionary cards. The working papers in this manila envelope will be turned in separately.
- Statement about Report Being Finished
- Purpose of Report and Any Encouragement to Read
- Thanks for the Business Assignment.
In the first paragraph, tell the reader the report is finished. You don't have to say: "I'm Out of Here." Matter of factly, tell the reader you have completed the assignment. For example, you might say:
The report you asked for on how can the owners reduce the amount of smoke at the Los Angeles Billiards is complete. The semester report is rewritten with the essential sections improved.
In the next paragraph talk about your purpose for writing the report. Also, bring up any significant considerations, analysis, or decision the reader would like to know. That encourages the reader to look at your report rather than setting it aside.
In the last paragraph you thank the reader for having given you the business assignment. You may not feel thankful. Still, it is common business courtesy to thank the reader. You are working for that individual. Be careful of using the B.S. Factor.
In dating the transmittal memo, use the date the report will be turned in. That connects all of your writing. Do not use the date you finished the memo.
Sometimes we are tempted to characterize the data as surprising or astonishing. Avoid that tendency. The data are to be treated as data, nothing more in the Considerations. Even be careful about using the word random or significant. Unless the number is truly significant (over 50 percent), avoid even using that word. That is the "fun" part of doing a report: finding data you did not expect. You are obligated, however, to present the data as objectively as possible.
The report writer is preparing a paragraph about questionnaire data. The report writer suddenly pens:
The current students provide a valuable sampling of student opinions.
Why should the writer tell the reader the data are valuable? Of course, the data are valuable. The writer is falling into the trap of characterizing the data. The data surprised me. We are not interested in your surprise. Just report the data, and let the readers make up their minds about the surprise or the astonishment. Another point I have seen in certain papers: "My two professors, both in management, insightfully provided information about how the curriculum has changed." Please don't add insightfully. Let the readers make up their minds whether the data provided any insight.
The data in Table 1 and Figure 1 appear to have significance.
Comments: What data? The report writer has taken the easy way to make a slight reference to the data.
Now, let's consider the next set of writing about the analytical report considerations. Also, don't forget the data for the table and figure belong in the Considerations, not the Analysis and Decisions. Here's the writing:
The three interviewees agreed there was a problem with an employee shortage in our office (Figure 1-Attachment C). Everyone believed that work has been piling up since our last employee quit. All three interviewees decided that something needed to be done to fix the problem. Only one employee knew what cross-training was (Figure 1-Attachment C). The interviewed employees agreed cross-training could greatly benefit our and office. They are willing to try this training.
Comments: The report writer in the previous passage has avoided "The figure shows." The data are cleanly expressed, and the reader is left with the importance of looking at the attachments.
In the next report we are concerned with the high crime rate in a particular part of the city. The writer deftly refers to the table to let the reader know the importance of the data:
Out of the 16 business owners, 11 said the police department should do more to stop crime (Table 1-Attachment B). All of business owners (Table 1) mentioned that sometimes they don't even bother reporting any crime to the police because these owners know what the outcome is going to be. They all stated police are slow in responding to emergency calls. In Table 1, 11 business owners agreed that the city needs to create jobs targeted at recruiting gang members and at-risk high school students.
Comments: Notice how the report writer made frequent reference to the table. It is not wrong to add Table 1 at the end of the sentence or somewhere appropriate in the sentence's middle. The reader is constantly reminded to look at the table for all the data and the significant data. The table takes on a life of its own as it is frequently referenced. You as a reader want to look at the table. The report writer is telling you the meaning can be found in the table. The attachments become important.
Of the 37 sisters surveyed, when asked if they had ever been in financial arrears at any time for any reason, 15 had said yes.
The awkwardness of the writing becomes apparent. How much better it would have been if the report writer had keyboarded:
When the surveyed 37 sisters were asked about having their dues in arrears, 15 reported they had. We could also write: "Fifteen of the 37 sisters reported they had their dues in arrears." To avoid the "in arrears," we would say: "Fifteen of the 37 sisters reported they neglected to pay their dues on time."
Little by little you can see we are improving the writing and avoiding the awkwardness of reporting "yes" or "no" or "no opinion." The report writer does not have to say: "answered with a yes response." That, unfortunately, shows the immaturity of writing and reporting research data.
Jack Smith says: "The employee should always be king in this company."
That sends the wrong message to the report reader. The report reader wants to be prepared for the quote. How much better it would have been if the report writer had said:
Jack Smith believes the employee is always important when he mentioned: "The employee should always be king in this company."
Now, the reader is prepared for the importance of the quotation. The quotation does not stand by itself. Here's another example where the report writer did not take enough time to explain the quote. The statement from the report reads:
As Jackie Mouse stated in the interview I had with her, "the pledges who don't ask questions are the ones who get into problems. You have to make yourself aware of your obligations."The report writer did not take enough time to realize the sentence cannot stand with just the quote. Starting the sentence with the weak, as, did not help the situation either. How much better the sentences would have sounded if the report writer might have written:
Jackie Mouse stressed in her interview about pledges assuming obligations and asking questions the following point: "The pledges who don't ask questions are the ones who get into problems. You have to make yourself aware of your obligations."
Positive Statements Make More ImpactWe are so often judged by the words we write. Years ago I listened to some administrative managers in El Paso, Texas, describe how they had to change the words of their employees so the reports going to top management would be acceptable. It got me thinking. How important is the quality of positive words said in a report? We can insult people with words. We can make people mad with words that carry such an emotional impact that our recommendations are not accepted. Our words lie dormant on the page waiting for an explosion because of the negative quality of their wording.
We don't have to wait for our managers or supervisors to change our wording. Let's take some instances where negative wording may have hurt the report:
Parents are abusing the Recreation and Parks Program at Canoga Park.
Comments: Now, perhaps the parents are abusing the program by not picking up the youngsters or not paying their dues for the various programs. Imagine yourself, though, the head of a particular program, and you read this report about possible changes. You bristle because the report writer has used the term, "abusing." Couldn't the report writer become more matter of fact and simply state in the Analysis, "Parents need to pay their dues on time and pick up their youngsters at the appointed time." No one is put on the spot in the report. You simply state the logical conclusions.
It wouldn't hurt to take another example from a report about the importance of training in a securities firm. The report writer is trying to show how the lack of training is hampering the employees. He writes:
Employees from the Operations and Sales Department have inadequate knowledge about the securities business and related matters for their clients.
Comments: Your back goes up as a top manager reading this report. Why? You realize you have given the employees some of the best training in the industry. How dare the report writer insinuate our employees have inadequate knowledge! How much better it would have been if the report writer had phrased the statement a little more positively. The report writer is not wrong to point out that certain kinds of additional training might help the employee. Even if the training as perceived by the report writer needs improvement, the writer could have chosen a word other than "inadequate." The report writer could have written in a more positive vein: "Employees from the Operations and Sales Department need more education in securities clearing-settlements." The word, have, was so passive in the previous example that it simply added to the possible irritation felt by the top manager.
Suppose you are given an assignment to find out how to improve the interviewing techniques of your fellow managers. You already know applicants are stating information during the interview that later comes home to haunt them. You write in your report the following statement:
The managers in such-and-such department are guilty of careless interviewing techniques.Your immediate boss shows the report to someone from that department guilty of careless interviewing techniques. The explosions start. The memos start flying back and forth. You are guilty of careless wording in trying to explain a recurring problem.
Comments: The report writer should have taken more time with the first part of the Analysis. Perhaps, the managers are guilty of sloppy interviewing techniques. You can't say that. You have to couch your language with euphemisms and positive sounding words to have your Analysis and Decisions even considered. We could say the following: "Based on my findings and with attention to all departments' concerns, I believe the interviewing techniques used by such-and-such department may need some refining. I understand the applicants are often guilty of expressing ideas that cannot no longer bear fruit after they are employed. Such-and-such department always has the obligation to . . " You presented your Analysis with becoming modesty.
Words carry an emotional impact. One has to decide how indignant or friendly one wants to be. Remember your purpose in writing the report: you want your Analysis and Decisions (Recommendations) accepted. Your words will help convey that meaning.
The previous words don't carry much impact. They are usually placed there in the Considerations to fill space. Look at this sentence: Most employees believe a dress code would be appropriate within the firm." How many? What ages or years of experience? Questions remain when you use weasel words in the Considerations.
People understand majority means over 50 percent or sometimes defined as 50 percent plus one. Therefore, if you insist on using the weasel word, majority, please clarify by placing the number and percentage in parentheses after the word (e.g. majority (17 people, 60 percent).
The attachments create their own special problems. Do not number the attachment title pages, but count them. You need to number every attachment, including the surveys, tables, charts, and exhibits. The number has to occur consecutively after the final page of the memo. For example, if you stopped with page 5 of the memo, then your next numbered page for your survey instrument would be page 7. The attachment title page intervened as page 6. When you finish numbering all the attachments in the bottom center or appropriate location, we next need to number the bibliography. The bibliography page(s) also requires its own page number in consecutive order. The last page numbered is the bibliography. If you don't have a bibliography (for some reason), you stop numbering with the last page of the attachments.
MAKEUP FOR WEEK 13You need to take a sheet of paper and look at the following statements. Decide whether each statement or series of statements is Considerations(C), Analysis (A), or Decision(D), or Nothing. Then, tell why in a sentence or so. Go ahead and turn in your work.
For All Classes--Day and Evening
- It has been estimated "two million white-collar jobs" have been cut during recent years.
- After further research I feel (please don't use)that 1.0% tip share is the most fair to both the servers and the bar backs (Note: Bar backs have to clean up after the bar is closed for the night.)
- The information in Table 1 concurs with the fact that (don't use that phrase)Mullah Mohammed would rather purchase additional land, on which to build a parking lot, than rent out a parking facility.
- The results show (find some other word)that all 15 employees surveyed felt (Note: Try not to have two verbs together.)that the store had a nice atmosphere.
- After reviewing the seven surveys, I discovered employees experience (maybe have these two words in different order)difficulties with communication management.
- Most people are willing to participate at some level, whether actively or passively they are at least involved (Table 2).
- Attachment A, Table 1, describes employees' trust of the passed-on information pertaining to the supermarket trend.
- After analyzing the data gathered from the 21 surveys, I discovered a trend between the years of experience with Major Discount and the opinion of the current safety training.
- Of the 10 people surveyed, no one favors the complete elimination of the position.
- By reading the background to my report, one would expect the number of associates regularly making commission to be very low.
- Table 2 shows (please do not phrase this way) (Attachment B)the expenses and profits of the restuarant. The restaurant needs at least 10 percent of profits to continue the business.
- Employees are also encountering financial difficulties by not keeping up with expenses incurred through raising a family. These are all views employees at ABC University had in common due to shortage of pay increases.
- Table 1 represents the opinions of the employees in the National and Accounting areas. The table shows more than half of full-time employees feel (please do not use)that the communication skills of the management are adequate, followed by poor and no opinion.
- The results showed seven tenants (35 percent), the largest number, prefer security cameras as a way to improve the parking security.
- In other words (please don't say), Table 1 tells us we should spend $50,000 on advertising for the highest rate of return on every dollar spent.
- After adding the total rent collection from 10 units, I found overall rent levels are low at 892 Nathan Wood Lane.
Especially for Day Classes
- In anticipation of large parties nightly, the manager should equip each station with 240 spoons for each course of the Deluxe Feast and 160 spoons for dessert, totaling 400 spoons.
- Only eight out of 100 opposed building a smoking patio. More than eight out of ten people favor the idea of building an outside patio.
- Table 1, Stockroom Confusion, gives important (careful of characterizing data) data on the ratio of times employees make trips to the stockroom and retrieve shoes for a customer with and without any problems.
- Palmcom accounts for over 34 percent of average receivables. Second to Palmcom was Border-State at nearly 26 percent.
- The results show that Hans tends to spend the majority of his time on sales planning and account calls (both at 27%), while Raoul spends the majority of his day (43%) on investment analysis and very little time overall on sales planning and sales management (both 9%).
Especially for 7-9:45 p.m. Class
Note: The previous sentences of this first item indicate the different questions.
- Table 1 reports the reactions to the questions asked of students. Figure 1 shows a graphical interpretation of the same data. The numbers on the "questions" line correspond with the previously numbered questions.
- These data appear in Table 1 in Attachment B. An automated test system would detect these types of defects before they left the production floor. In fact, an average of 71 percent of the defects would be caught by the new system.
- Responses to the question about the number of times beachgoers have observed trash floating or being washed ashore appears in Table 1 on Attachment A.
- In 1993, the position of Distributor Coordinator was established to promote distributor sales. Unfortunately, in 1994, the position was eliminated for budgetary reasons.
- July through December shows an income averaging between the $3,000 and $5,000 range as an assistant.
- Figure 2 (Attachment D) suggests that miscalculations in the date of birth will have a strong impact on the accuracy of each member service employee's ability to perform his or her task.
You may find additional material to help you on the home page and the links for memo and memo format as well as other links, such as presentations and tables and charts . Please feel free to use them.
copyright(c)G. Jay Christensen
Last updated Thursday, August 24, 2006