The importance of the introduction in business report writing

The beginning of a business report is the most important position because it prepares the reader for the rest of the business report, sets the tone, and has impact. Use the strategies explained in this lesson in your business report writing to write introductions that will give your reports impact and make them successful in accomplishing your goals. The business report introduction should be short and to the point. It should not include details. You will develop the details for the body of the business report.

The introduction to the business report should include everything the reader needs to know to be prepared to read the report with awareness and understanding. In your business report writing, provide the reader with the context or history and a statement of the content of the business report.

Business Report Writing Tip 1:
Write the context or history

To prepare the reader for the rest of the business report, state the following at the beginning of the report:

  • The context — Why is the reader receiving this now?
  • The history — What has led up to the present report?

In your business report writing, include enough to ensure the reader knows the context or history. The reader may not recall significant facts, or the business report may find its way to people who have less understanding of the background. The introduction prepares the reader for the contents of the business report by bringing the reader to the point where the report is relevant.

Limit the introduction to the context or history. Do not include detail about the business report yet. That belongs in the body. Keep the introduction as short as possible.

Business Report Writing Tip 2:
Write the purpose for the report

After you explain the context or history in your business report writing, describe the purpose of this report. How does it fit into that context or history? It probably will contribute to the history or lead to a resolution. Explain how it fits into the context.

Business Report Writing Tip 3:
Write conclusions and recommendations if your report contains them

Readers normally want to know the conclusions to the business report right away, in an easily read format. If your business report has generated conclusions, state the conclusions after the context, history, and purpose. Similarly, if your business report contains recommendations, state the recommendations briefly in the business report introduction. Then explain them in greater detail in the report.

If your readers may not accept your conclusions or recommendations easily, you may decide to present the conclusions or recommendations after presenting the case or evidence in the body of the business report.

For more detail about placing the conclusions and recommendations at the beginning in business report writing, click here.

Business Report Writing Tip 4:
Write the next activities involving the report

Explain what will be done with the business report and what the next actions will be. Include as much detail as you have available at the time you write the report.

Example business report writing introduction:

We have decided to focus on quality to bring our products up the level we all want them to be. To accomplish our goal, we need to reduce errors. Our part-time PERL programmer doesn’t have the time to devote to our projects while going to school.

One solution is to hire a dedicated PERL programmer for our technical services staff. This report explores the pros and cons of requesting a new position. [continues here].

This introduction is strong. It very clearly explains the context for the business report and provides history about the problem. Then it introduces the content to be addressed in the report. Notice that the introduction doesn’t provide details about the context. The writer wanted to get to the point.

Business Report Writing Tip 5:
The introduction must be self-contained

In your business report writing, write introductions that are self-contained so that the reader does not have to refer to another business report or recall earlier conversations to be prepared for reading this report. The dates and references to meetings in the example below will help the reader remember the request without searching through files.

Example Introduction in Business Report Writing

On July 15, Assistant Manager Jane Reynolds requested suggestions on possible ways of expanding our creative department while keeping our costs as low as possible. At a meeting on July 17, our staff members discussed her request. This report explains five suggestions we believe will expand our creative department and keep costs low.

First, developing an . . . [report continues here]

The context, history, and content of the message are clear. When Jane reads the report, she’ll know what this report is in reference to. Jane can then spend time evaluating the suggestions rather than trying to figure out why she received the report.

Business Report Writing Tip 6:
Use the reader’s words in the introduction

If the business report is in response to a request, use the reader’s words in the introduction. Summarize or quote the requestor’s requirements in the introduction. Summarizing the requirements in the reader’s words shows the reader you are complying with the request. If the reader had more than one part to the request, list each part that you are fulfilling using the reader’s words.

Example Introduction in Business Report Writing

Look again at the introduction to a business report on suggestions for expanding the creative department.

On July 15, Assistant Manager Jane Reynolds requested suggestions on possible ways of expanding our creative department while keeping our costs as low as possible. At a meeting on July 17, our staff members discussed her request. This report explains five suggestions we believe will expand our creative department and keep costs low.

First, developing an . . . [report continues here]

The request asked for suggestions to accomplish two goals: expand the creative department and keep costs as low as possible. The introduction states that the business report will address both goals by explaining five suggestions.

Now look at an introduction that does not use the reader’s words.

Poor Example Introduction in Business Report Writing

This report explains a plan for improving our creative department and cutting expenses.

A “plan” is not the same as “suggestions.” “Improving” is not the same as “expanding,” and “cutting expenses” is not the same as “keeping costs as low as possible.” Changing the reader’s words will create confusion and will not fulfill the request correctly.

A strong introduction to a business report briefly explains the context, history, and content of the report. It prepares the reader for the information that will follow and demonstrates that the writer is fulfilling the requirements for the report.

Business Report Writing Tip 7:
List each request you are fulfilling using the reader’s words

If the reader included more than one part in the request, list each part that you are fulfilling using the reader’s words. The reader may have had four questions, or two questions and a suggestion, or other such combination of parts in the correspondence to you. In your introduction to the business report, follow the organization the reader used and repeat the key words in the questions, suggestions, or other content. Create a list at the beginning of the business report so you show the reader you are responding to every point of interest to the reader. Then, in the body of the business report, repeat the same statements as headings so the reader sees the correspondence between his or her request, your introduction, and the body.

Example Introduction in Business Report Writing

This is the reader’s request to the writer:

We’re concerned that eventually the state EPA may say something about how the de-icing fluids are running off of the tarmacs. Let’s try to hold that off. Give me a report on what we are doing about the fluids, where they seem to be going, the likely state EPA response when we report to them about where they’re going, and some alternative means of disposing of the fluids if we’re required to do so.
Barton Airport currently allows de-icing fluids to run off of the tarmacs onto the areas of grass bordering the tarmacs. We will be producing a report to the state EPA in another month describing the current status of disposal of the de-icing fluids. This report contains descriptions of

  • What we are doing about the fluids
  • Where they seem to be going
  • The likely state EPA response when we report to them about where they’re going
  • Three alternative means of disposing of the fluids if we’re required to do so

The introduction to the report uses the identical wording in the reader’s request, presented in the same order, bulleted out to be clear.

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