How to Write Headings for Clear Report Writing

In your business report writing, use headings to open blocks. Headings are your fulfillment of the contract with the reader. In the statement of contents, you agreed to explain certain information in the business report writing. The main point sentences state, one topic at a time, the part of the statement of contents contract that you are fulfilling; the headings introduce the main points in good business report writing.

Business Report Writing Tip 1:
Use the same key words in the headings that you used in the statement of contents.

The clearest business report writing uses headings containing the same key words used in the main point statements, in the same order. The headings should be explicit statements of the content to follow so the readers cannot misunderstand. Headings must be understandable by the reader before the reader reads the text. The levels of headings in business report writing must also be distinct so they look like an outline of the text. The reader should be able to see at a glance the outline levels of the business report, as in this example:


Decide on Your Investment Objectives

Long-term Objectives

Short-term Objectives

Example Business Report Headings

This is the thesis for a sample of business report writing: “We can reduce the problem of employee theft through three actions: increase the use of surveillance cameras, hire more security personnel, and have more than one employee involved when the employees handle cash.”

For the main points listed in the thesis, you would use these headings:

key words: increase the use of surveillance cameras

key words: hire more security personnel

key words: have more than one employee participate in activities involving money

Don’t be afraid to write longer headings in business report writing. If the reader has to read the text below the heading to understand the heading, then the heading has failed in its primary function of preparing the reader for what follows in the business report.

Business Report Writing Tip 2:
Format the headings consistently using Microsoft Word’s styles function.

Use the Microsoft Word styles to set your headings in the business report writing. Using the styles function will give you a consistent format. If you don’t know how to use the styles, this video will help you learn about styles in business report writing:

Business Report Writing Tip 3:
Format the headings so they form a clear visual outline.

The descriptions of headings that follow are in line with the APA style sheet’s suggestions for business report writing headings. Each level corresponds to a style in Microsoft Word. Use Word to set the style for headings in your report writing. Don’t set up the style each time you write a heading in your business reports.

The levels correspond to the heading designations in Word. The Level 1 heading corresponds with the Heading 1 style in Word. The Level 2 heading corresponds to Heading 2 in Word. Change Word’s default settings for the headings. Use black for the headings. The font size for body text is 12 point. The APA style sheet suggests positioning the body text immediately under the heading and indenting the first line of the body text five spaces. The Business Writing Center suggests leaving six or twelve points of space below each heading in your business report writing to make the text look less crowded and more readable.

Level 1 Heading

The Level 1 headings in business report writing should correspond with the I, II, and III levels of an outline. They are the main points in your report writing. In Word, tag the heading as the Heading 1 style for the Level 1 heading. The Level 1 heading should be the strongest. In longer documents, center it, bold it, and skip 24 points (two lines) before the first-level heading. You may choose to use all caps, a 14-point font, and a block font such as Arial or Helvetica. Do not use bolding and underlining together. That is too much decoration. In shorter business reports, use the Level 2 heading description below for Level 2 headings.

Level 2 Heading

The Level 2 headings correspond to the A, B, and C levels under the Level 1 headings. In Microsoft Word, tag the Level 2 headings with the Heading 2 style. The Level 2 headings should be 12-point font, flush left, bolded, uppercase for first letters of words except for prepositions, articles, or conjunctions. Skip 12 points below (one line), and 12 points above. You may choose to use a block font such as Arial or Helvetica, but should use the same font as you used for the other headings in your business report writing. In shorter business reports, use this Leve 2 format for the Level 1 headings.

Level 3 Heading

The APA format for Level 3 headings is 12-point font bolded, indented five spaces from the left, followed by a period.

The Business Writing Center suggests a clearer difference between the heading levels in business report writing by using 12-point font, flush left, no bolding, underlined, with 12 points skipped below and 12 points skipped above. You may choose to use a block font such as Arial or Helvetica if you used it for the other headings in your business report writing.

Business Report Writing Tip 4:
Integrate headings with generalizations to open main points.

Below each heading in your business report writing, write a sentence stating the main point. Each main point statement, also called a “generalization,” will be the first sentence in a new paragraph. The generalizations open the new ideas in the business report so the readers can follow your message. They also indicate the business report’s progress in relation to the statement of contents. In this form of business report writing, you should have a generalization at the beginning of each section describing how you are fulfilling the contract with the reader by presenting the information coming up next in the business report.

The generalization statements must use the key words, exactly as they are presented in the statement of contents and headings of your business report writing.

Business Report Writing Tip 5:
Check to ensure the key words are in the four critical areas of the business report.

The reader should see the key words in four areas of the business report:

  • Statement of contents
  • Headings
  • Main point or generalization sentences
  • Explanation

These four areas must be explicit because they are the contract you have with the reader. Just as you would not change a contract with a company by using different words for key concepts, you must use the same words throughout this fulfillment of the contract you have made with the reader in the business report. Here are the resulting statement of contents, headings, and generalization sentences (without the detail).

Our company can use three methods to reduce employee theft: increase the use of surveillance cameras, hire more security personnel, and have more than one employee participate in each activity involving money.
Increase the Use of Surveillance Cameras
The first method our company can use to reduce employee theft is to increase the use of surveillance cameras. Detail here . . .
Hire More Security Personnel
The second method our company can use to reduce employee theft is to hire more security personnel. Detail here . . .
Have More than One Employee Participate in Activities Involving Money
The final method our company can use to reduce employee theft is to have more than one employee participate in each activity involving money. . . . Detail here . . .

The key words in the list of main points the writer had in the business report statement of contents become the headings. The same key words appear in the first sentences after the headings. Those first sentences are the generalizations.

This structure for your business report writing guides the readers through your reports so the reader cannot misunderstand the reports.

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