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Chapter 15 BCOM Writing and Completing Reports and Proposals

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When organizing business reports and proposals, you need to:
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* Decide on the format and length * Choose the direct or indirect approach * Select the appropriate informational or analytical structure
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When selecting a written format, you have four options:
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Preprinted form Letter Memo Manuscript
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The length of a report depends on
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Your subject Your purpose Your relationship with your audience
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Use a direct approach when your audience is likely to be receptive.
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Begin with a summary of key findings, conclusions, or recommendations.
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The direct approach
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Is the most popular and most convenient order for business reports Saves time and makes the rest of the report easier to follow Produces a more forceful report
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Use the indirect approach when
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* You are a junior member of a status-conscious organization * Your audience is skeptical or hostile
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The indirect approach lets you Prove your points first,
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gradually overcoming audience reservations Imply that you’ve weighed the evidence objectively without prejudicing the facts Imply that you’re subordinating your judgment to that of the audience
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The indirect approach has two disadvantages:
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* The longer the message, the less effective this approach is likely to be. * An indirect argument is harder for readers to follow than a direct one.
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Business people often combine the direct and indirect approach,
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revealing conclusions and recommendations as they go along.
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Since informational reports provide facts only,
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you can use the direct approach.
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For informational reports, use a topical organization, arranging your material by
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Importance Sequence Chronology Spatial orientation Geography Category
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The structure of analytical reports depends on
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Audience reaction Whether you focus on conclusions, recommendations, or logical arguments.
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Focus on conclusions if your readers
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Will trust your judgment Are willing to accept your conclusions
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Focus on recommendations whenever your readers want to know what they ought to do:
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Emphasize the need for action in the introduction. Introduce the benefit that can be achieved. List the steps necessary to achieve the benefit. Explain each step more fully. Summarize the recommendations.
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Focus on your logical argument
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if Your purpose is to collaborate with your audience to solve a problem You want to persuade readers to take a definite action You want readers to concentrate on why your ideas make sense
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Solicited proposals are best organized by
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using the client’s criteria as your main points.
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The indirect approach may be a better choice for unsolicited proposals
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because you must first convince your readers that a problem exists.
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When preparing reports, you’ll often include graphics to
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Make your report more interesting Convey important points Hold your audience’s attention
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Use visuals selectively to
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Support your primary message Supplement your words, not replace them.
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To help you decide how many and what types of visuals to include in your report, you should
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Identify the points requiring visual support Strive to maintain a balance between illustrations and words
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Different types of visual aids best depict different types of data:
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Use a bar chart to compare one item with another. Use a pie chart to compare one part with the whole. Use a line chart, a bar chart, or a scatter chart to show correlations. Use a map to show geographic relationships. Use a flowchart or a diagram to illustrate a process or a procedure.
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When preparing effective tables
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Use common, understandable units and clearly identify them Express all items in a column in the same unit, and round off for simplicity Label column headings clearly, and use a subhead if necessary Separate columns or rows with lines or extra space for ease of reading Document the source of data using the same format as a text footnote
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Line charts illustrate trends over time or
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plot the relationship of two variables.
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When preparing effective line charts,
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you Arrange the vertical (y) axis to show the amount and the horizontal (x) axis to show the time or the quantity being measured Try to limit the number of lines to no more than three on a single chart Use a broken axis if the data plotted are far above zero
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A surface chart (area chart) is a form of line chart with a cumulative effect;
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all the lines add up to the top line, which represents the total.
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Bar charts can be used to
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Compare the size of several items at one time Show changes in one item over time Indicate the composition of several items over time Show the relative size of components of a whole
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When preparing effective bar charts,
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you Keep all the bars the same width Space the bars evenly Place the bars in logical order Use spreadsheet programs to create charts from tables
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Pie charts
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Show how parts of a whole are distributed Show percentages effectively Compare one segment with another
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When preparing effective pie charts, you
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Restrict the number of slices in the pie Place the largest or most important slice at the twelve o’clock position Use different colors or patterns to distinguish the various pieces
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Flowcharts illustrate a sequence of events from start to finish—
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such as processes, procedures, and sequential relationships.
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Organization charts illustrate
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the interactions between a firm’s positions, units, or functions.
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Creating graphics on the computer has many advantages:
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Speed Accuracy Ease of use Ability to use visuals over and over again Ability to use spreadsheets to generate charts
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Effective writers begin composing their first draft of a report or proposal by
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preparing a final outline.
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As you compose, follow the writing process discussed in Chapter 5.
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Additional writing tasks for reports include Developing the text Drafting the content for your report or proposal Using a proper degree of formality Sticking with a consistent time perspective Providing clues to help readers navigate your document
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The text has three major sections:
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an introduction, a body, and a close.
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You will create more successful reports if your content is
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Accurate Complete Balanced Structured clearly and logically Documented properly
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For the most successful proposals, use the AIDA plan and follow these important guidelines:
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Demonstrate that you have the knowledge and experience to solve the problem. Provide concrete examples. Research the competition. Prove that your proposal is workable. Adopt a “you” attitude. Package your proposal attractively.
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An effective introduction accomplishes four tasks:
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Ties the report or proposal to a problem or an assignment Introduces the report’s subject and indicates why the subject is important Previews the main ideas and the order in which they will be covered Establishes the tone of the document and your relationship with the audience
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The body of a report or proposal
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Consists of the major divisions or chapters Presents, analyzes, and interprets the information you have gathered Contains the “proof” that supports your conclusions or recommendations
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An effective closing
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Summarizes the benefits to the reader Emphasizes the main points of the message of taking the proposed course of action Refers back to all the pieces and reminds the reader of how they fit together Brings all the action items together in one place
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The degree of formality in your report is directly related to the document’s format, length, and organization.
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For informal reports, adopt a personal style, using the pronouns you and I. For formal reports, use an impersonal style and eliminate all references to you and I.
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To help your readers navigate your report, use three tools:
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Headings Transitions Previews and reviews
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To complete a successful report, you need to carefully
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Revise your report Produce your report in appropriate form Proofread your final version
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Prefatory parts of a formal report may include some but usually not all the following:
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Cover Title fly Title page Letter of authorization Letter of transmittal Table of contents List of illustrations Synopsis or executive summary
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The title page includes
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(1) the title of the report; (2) the name, title, and address of the person(s) authorizing the report; (3) the name, title, and address of the person(s) preparing the report; and (4) the date on which the report was submitted.
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The letter of authorization is a document requesting that
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a report be prepared.
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The letter of transmittal conveys
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the report to the audience and says what the report writer would say if personally handing the document to the person who authorized it.
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The contents page (table of contents)
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lists report parts and text headings to indicate their location.
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The list of illustrations includes titles and numbers of all visual aids and
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the page numbers where they appear.
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The synopsis
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Is a brief overview of a report’s most important points Can be either informative (presenting main points in the order they appear in the body of the report) or descriptive (simply telling what the report is about)
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The executive summary is a fully developed
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“mini” version of the report itself.
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Depending on their length,
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many reports require neither a synopsis nor an executive summary.
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The text of the report contains
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the introduction, body, and closing.
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Supplementary parts come after the text of a report and may include elements such as
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Appendixes Bibliography Index
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Formal proposals contain many of the same components as other formal reports, with a few exceptions:
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The RFP replaces the letter of authorization that appears in other reports. A synopsis or executive summary is often less useful in proposals than in other reports. The letter of transmittal follows the direct approach for solicited proposals; it follows the persuasive approach for unsolicited proposals.
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As with other types of reports, the text of a proposal consists of
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the introduction, body, and closing.