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Business & IT Unit

Business
Report
Writing

Presented by
The British Council

Trainer:
Date:

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Workshop outline
Day 1

9:00 – 9:30 Introductions & workshop objectives


9:30 –10:00 The importance of reports
10:00 –11:00 Standard report layout
11:00 - 11:15 Break
11:15 – 12:15 Report writing process & workshop assignment
12:15 – 1:15 Collecting information
1:15 – 2:15 Lunch
2:15 – 3:15 Report objectives & organising information
3:15 – 3:30 Break
3:30 – 4:30 Terms of reference

Day 2

9:00 – 9:30 Review of first day & homework task


9:30 – 10:00 Main body
10:00 –11:00 Conclusions, recommendations
11:00 - 11:15 Break
11:15 – 12:15 Summarising & style
12:15 – 1:15 Layout & visual aids
1:15 – 2:15 Lunch
2:15 – 3:15 Editing & proof reading (spelling and punctuation)
3:15 – 3:30 Break
3:30 – 4:30 Editing & proof reading (fog index)

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Workshop objectives

By the end of the workshop each participant will:

• be better able to write clear and well structured documents

• have a better understanding of the report writing process

• have practised techniques required in the process of writing a well-


structured report

• have produced the outline of a report specific to your needs

What would you specifically like to gain from this workshop?

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

The importance of reports

Discuss these questions with other members of your group.

1 What formal reports are written in your organisation?

2 What are they written for?

3 What types of reports may be briefer or less formal?

4 What are the differing requirements between these types of reports?


What requirements are universal to all reports?

5 How do you feel about writing reports, compared with giving a verbal
report, and why?

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

The importance of reports

Reports are a vital part of the communication process. They can be used to
record actions already taken, proposals or just suggestions. All too often we
are terrified to commit our ideas to paper, especially if it is a report where we
have to 'make recommendations'. The 'fear' leads us to writing too much, or
not enough or simply writing nonsense, when in fact all that is needed is an
accurate interpretation of what we are thinking. In other words a well
structured report.

The skills of good report writing can be learnt like any other, and the principles
apply whatever the purpose. It could be:

• a proposal to a client

• a report to the marketing committee

• a monthly budget report

• suggestions of a new scheme

• a request for new equipment

• an account of a visit to a seminar or conference

• a feasibility study for the introduction of a new product or service

• a report on a theft or accident at work

With every report, the objective is for the reader to understand something he
or she didn't know before, and usually to persuade them to agree a particular
course of action. There is no guarantee that by presenting a well-written
report your case will automatically be accepted, but at least if it has been
understood it will stand a better chance.

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Standard report format

Look at the list of contents of a typical report below. In your groups decide on
a logical order.

Findings

Appendix (Appendices)

Table of contents

Terms of reference (Introduction)

Conclusions

Title page

Recommendations

Summary (Abstract)

Bibliography

Acknowledgements

Are there any other sections that you include in your reports?

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Standard report format


Match the definitions to the correct section of a formal report.

1. TITLE PAGE A. This tells us why the report was written.


2. CONTENTS B. This section states the aims of the
report
and outlines the main findings,
conclusions and recommendations.
3. ABSTRACT or SUMMARY C. This should include the following :
— the report subject
4. TERMS OF REFERENCE — the author
— the reports recipients
5. BACKGROUND — the date at completion
6. PURPOSE — an indication of priority or
confidentiality
7. SCOPE
D. This gives any relevant information
leading up to the report.
8. FINDINGS
E. The main body of the report, clearly laid
out with headings and sub headings.
9. CONCLUSIONS F. This section summarises the principle
findings and answers "the question"
that the report asks.
10. RECOMMENDATIONS G. This section lists the main sections of
the report and gives page numbers.

11. APPENDIX H. This part states what is and what is not


covered in the report, and mentions the
parameters of the data collected.
I. This contains extra data and information
that is not central to the report.
J. This section highlight actions that
should or could result from the report.
K. This is the introduction which includes
three main parts: background
information, purpose and scope of the
report.

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

The report writing process


Below are some of the tasks that may be involved in writing a report. Working
in groups, decide which order you would do these tasks in. Number the items,
leaving out any points you think are unimportant.

1. Consider the importance of the report: who it is for, why they want it, how
will they use it?
2. Write the body of the report
3. Write the introduction
4. State the aim and emphasis of the report briefly
5. Collect all the materials
6. Check readability, clarity, consistency; then your grammar, spelling,
punctuation, and style
7. Read the text aloud to someone else
8. Decide what information is important and what is irrelevant
9. Arrange the points of information in a logical sequence and in order of
importance
10.Finally if possible, let someone (qualified to give constructive criticism) look
at the draft
11.Decide where you might need illustrations or diagrams
12.Write the conclusions & recommendations
13.Check your illustrations
14.Summarise the report
15.Examine the draft. Does it do what the report is expected to do?

Now divide these tasks into categories to show the 4 different stages of the
writing process.

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Your own writing process


Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you decide who you are writing for?

always sometimes never

2. Do you list all your ideas before you start?

always sometimes never

3. Do you organise your ideas so that your writing has structure?

always sometimes never

4. Do you write a first draft?

always sometimes never

5. Do you correct & improve on what you have written?

always sometimes never

6. Do you ask for advice and comments from another colleague?

always sometimes never

The way we write is very personal, but most people agree that it is important
to go through each of these stages when you are writing something, especially
a business document. It is particularly important that you have the aim or
objective of whatever you are writing very clear – to help you do this we will be
discussing aims and objectives throughout the workshop.

If you look back at the answers you gave to the questions, would you
say you’re writing habits are generally

Good

Generally acceptable

Poor

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Workshop assignment
During this workshop you will write a report specific to your job or department.

It must be a REAL report in that it can be one which you need to write now or it
can be based on one which you have written in the past.

You do NOT have to complete the report as a piece of homework. Instead you
will work on it slowly and by the end of the workshop have produced a full
report which reflects what you have learned on the workshop.

Stage one:

Identify the subject of your report. Write it below

_______________________________________________________________________

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Collecting information
There are two essential skills in collecting information:

1. Using the resources available


2. Deciding what information is useful and what is not

To do this you need to:

• Decide what/who the information is for;


• Recognise which are the relevant bits
• Extract the important details

Practice 1

You have to write a report on obtaining new photocopying equipment, which


needs to include the relative costs of buying, renting and leasing them.

• What information will you need?


• Where will you obtain this information?

Practice 2

You are in an electronic manufacturing company and have been told by your
new director to explore the possibility of launching a digital camera. Read the
article on the next page and decide:

• How is the article useful?


• What else would you need?

Practice Three

Now decide where you will collect information for YOUR report

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Snap Happy

At a bustling electronics store in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, Akira Yoshioka, a


25-year old insurance administrator, holds up a digital camera and demonstrates
his favourite feature- the ability to see the shot just taken. He checks the picture
displayed on the viewing screen and selects the erase function. “If it’s no good,
you just delete it,” he says with admiration. Yoshioka is not buying today: he’s
just checking out the new models. Like 4 million other Japanese, he already owns
a digital camera.

That number may seem surprising, since the picture quality still doesn’t match
that of the old 35 millimetre point-and-shoot. But unlike film cameras, digitals
don’t require film; they produce pictures that can be transferred onto computers
for instant viewing.

Fun with digital cameras clicked in Japan a couple of years ago and is now
beginning to spread. Although around 60% of the 6.5 million digital cameras
estimated to be sold globally in 1998 were bought in Japan - where most
manufacturers are based - they have started registering double and triple digit
annual growth in Europe and the United States. By 2001, some 10 million digital
cameras will be sold annually. And eventually they’re likely to replace film
cameras in all but specialist uses.

The digital camera concept is simple: A lens focuses an image onto a layer of
light-sensitive circuitry known as a charge-coupled device, or CCD. The CCD
“sees” the images as composites of tiny colour dots known as pixels. Current
cameras take pictures between 850,000 and 1.4 million pixels. More pixels
generally means a higher definition image. When a picture is taken, the camera
freezes the image and stores it digitally. This can be transferred to a PC by either
connecting a cable or by reading the picture data from removable storage data
media on the camera. This might be a floppy disk or a removable card of memory
chips. When digital cameras first became available, they were awkward and slow,
requiring a gap of 20 seconds between shots. Now, an image can be stored within
1.5 seconds.

There are 10 major digital camera makers. The leading own-brand manufacturer
is Fujifilm. Olympus, a leading film-camera maker comes a close second. Another
Japanese company, Sanyo Electric comes third. This company actually builds up
to 30% of the worlds digital cameras. It also assembles five of the top 10 best
sellers. Sanyo’s latest model, the DSC-X100-N sells in stores for just over $400. It
is a small compact camera and weighs only 200 grams. It’s easy to use and
features the ability to take a one-minute video clip.

Adapted from Far Eastern Economic Review December 31 1998

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Put the objective in writing


Discuss

1. What would be the consequence of not having a clear objective for a


report?

2. Suppose you were writing a report about a proposed staff pension scheme.
How would it differ if you were writing it:

i. for the board to decide on whether or not to adopt the new scheme?

or

ii. for circulating to staff who would be involved in the scheme?

There are various questions to ask yourself in order to formulate an


objective:

Who wants the report?


• Why do they want it?
• What exactly do they want?
• What should happen as a result of the report?

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

The language of objectives


Here are some important words to use when you are wording your objectives
and terms of references.

a) Verbs

investigate establish recommend assess

identify determine review report on

give evaluate

b) Linking words

so as to + infinitive in order to + infinitive

with a view to + gerund

c) Nouns

reasons causes situation course of action

evidence viability suitability availability

recommendations

d) They usually start with the phrase:

The objective of this report is to ......

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Put the objective in writing

You have been asked to produce each of the following reports. In each case,
write down a sentence that you might use as your objective (you can supply
your own conditions where they aren't implied in the questions):

1. A report to your boss on staff use of company telephones for personal use
(after your boss has just received a very
large phone bill for your office).

Objective:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. A report on management trainees failure rates for the attention of the


management.

Objective:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3. An objective for a typical report you might write at work.

My Objective:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Terms of reference
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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Terms of reference is the introduction to you report. It follows the executive


summary and includes the PURPOSE, BACKGROUND and SCOPE of your
report.

Practice One

Look at these badly written terms of references. Divide them into Purpose,
Background and Scope. Then re-write them so they give a better impression.

My manager wants to change people’s duties in my department, so I have to


see how this could happen and if it is a good idea or not..

I’ve got to look at the work of Mr X (he’s the assistant finance manager) and
see if he’s been doing a good job or not. If the report is negative then he’ll
probably get the sack.

Practice Two

Now write terms of reference for a report you might write at work.

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Organising points

Discuss

1. Why is it important to organise points into related groups:

i. for the writer?

ii. for the reader?

2. Suppose you wanted to explain the management and staff structure of


your company or organisation in writing. How many different ways are
there of sorting it into related groups?

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Ordering points

Importance

Ordering according to importance is probably the most common way to


organise business documents. The reason is very simple - the writer wants to
begin with his or her central idea. This ensures that:

• the reader will not be misled or confused about the document’s purpose
• the busy reader will get the most important information, even if s/he cannot
read every word
• the busy reader will know immediately whether this document must be read

Chronology

Work plans, explanations of complex series of incidents, instructions or how to


do a task or follow a procedure - these are examples of writing tasks that are
best ordered chronologically.

Sequence

Ordering by sequence is particularly good for instructions, work plans, and


other communications that demand step-by-step explanations.

Comparison

Comparing different position is yet another way to organise material. Suppose


you are comparing A and B. You can organise a report by alternating
paragraphs on A with paragraphs on B. Categories of comparison might be
distinguished by bold headlines.

Spatial Organisation

In some situations the most effective way to organise material is spatially. For
example, if you are describing a complex tool, you can describe its parts based
on how they are actually attached to each other, starting from the left, and
working to the right. You show the parts as they exist spatially, one after the
other.

Activity, Product or Service

For example in an annual report for an organisation it will be more logical to


present the report in sections according to activity performed by different
sections of the departments. The order of those activities, products and
services, may be according to importance or may be separated into internal
and external or even by import and export, whichever is more appropriate.

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Organising ideas
1. Organise the following ideas - which focus on a venue for a proposed
cosmetics promotion - into groups which have a similar topic. There may
be only one idea in some of the groups.

2. Give each of the groups a heading, which summarises the main idea of the
group.

3. Order the groups within the document, so that they are in a logical order.

4. Give the whole piece a heading that summarises the main idea of all the
groups.

The advantages of holding the event at the Marriott Hotel would seem to
justify the higher cost of 8%.

The Nile Hilton Hotel - Dining accommodation would consist of a section of the
main restaurant, partitioned off if necessary.

The Marriott Hotel - better dining facilities

Mr. Andrews visited both hotels on the 24th September. Arrangements,


accommodation and facilities were discussed in detail with the two Conference
Managers.

The cost of staging the event at the Marriott Hotel would be 8% higher than at
the Nile Hilton.

The Nile Hilton Hotel - A suitable reception lounge is available and also a
lecture room (capacity 60 people) for the address by the Managing Director
and the launch of the new line.

The Marriott Hotel - Residential accommodation is of an excellent standard and


would be in a special annex next to the swimming pool.

The Nile Hilton Hotel – Residential accommodation is of an excellent standard

The Marriott Hotel - a quieter location

The Nile Hilton Hotel - The hotel is located in the business centre of the city.

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

The Marriott Hotel - The reception would be held on the terrace and a suitable
lecture hall is available for the address and the launch of the line.
The Marriott Hotel - The exhibits would be housed in two connecting rooms

Delegates should be provided with a map indicating the exact location of the
Hotel.

The Marriott Hotel - A private dining room is available, leading to the terrace.

The Marriott Hotel - All sporting facilities would be made available to delegates
at no extra cost.

The Nile Hilton Hotel - Our twenty stands of exhibits could be housed in one
large hall.

The Marriott Hotel - free use of all sporting facilities

A detailed plan of the location of the exhibition stands in the two rooms should
be provided.

The Marriott Hotel - prestigious accommodation setting

After a brief discussion a shortlist of two possible venues was drawn up:
The Marriott Hotel
The Nile Hilton Hotel

The purpose of this report is to evaluate the suitability of the two venues and
to recommend the best option.

The event should be staged at the Marriott Hotel

The Nile Hilton Hotel - Sporting facilities are available at a cost of LE100 per
delegate.

Following the Board Meeting of 20 September 1998 it was decided that a PR


event should be held on 23rd November for the purpose of promoting the new
line in cosmetics

The Marriott Hotel - The hotel is located in the upper class area of Zamalek

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

A number of company employees should be appointed as stewards to guide


the delegates as required.

Main body
This section must be presented as clearly as possible. This can be
done by using headings.

In addition, the whole report should follow a numbering system to make it


easier to navigate through the different sections.

Therefore, for the report on hotels we can number it:

1 Terms of reference
2 Procedure
3 Findings
3.1 The Nile Hilton Hotel
3.2 The Marriott
3.3 Cost
4 Conclusions
5 Recommendations

Practice

Now write the sections and headings for your report. Number them if you feel
this is appropriate.

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Concluding & recommending

Though separate stages, these sections are related. Conclusions are drawn
when findings are analysed and represent the major learning points from the
study. Recommendations are practical courses of action based on the
conclusions.

Making Conclusions

These are the findings of a study into the courses run at the English Language
Centre. What conclusions can you make from this data?

Courses at an English Language Centre


Number of hours taught

700
600
500
Public
400
Corporate
300
200 Govt.
100
0
1994 1996 1998 2000
Years

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Findings, conclusions and recommendations


Decide if the following sentences are Findings, Conclusions or
Recommendations

1. Public courses have increased dramatically.

2. Training managers in the corporate sector have always considered English


language a priority, however, when the economy is weak and companies
are hit, it is often the training budget that is cut.

3. The increase in hours of public courses is expected to continue to grow


therefore we must look to expand our premises and recruit new staff as a
matter of priority.

4. Government courses have continued to decline slowly.

5. We should focus on consolidating the corporate sector to slippage due to


the economy.

6. English language is seen as a very important skill by individuals to the


extent that they are willing to fund themselves more and more.

7. The corporate sector is affected by annual fluctuations in the economy.

8. Corporate courses in 2000 increased to 490 hours delivered. This is a


17.5% increase on 1999.

9. There has been a falling off in the government funded training programmes
because of the shift of focus away from English Language training in the
government.

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Recommending Language
These recommendations differ in their strength. Number them in order of their
strength (1 should be the strongest, and 6 will be the least strong)

Then underline the specific phrase which is used to indicate the strength of
each recommendation.

1. It is advisable to reduce the number of telephones on desks.


2. Private use of telephones in the office must be stopped.
3. I recommend that staff are sent a memo informing them of the changes.
4. Staff should be made more responsible.
5. Making the switchboard computerised might also be considered.
6. I strongly recommend that all phones be locked.

Conclusions & recommendations


Now write at least two conclusion and recommendation for your
report.

Conclusions:

1.

2.

Recommendations

1.

2.

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Summarising

A summary is a short statement of the content of a longer document. It can


act as:

• as an indication to the reader whether it will be of interest, or


• as a time-saver for readers who do not have time to read the whole report.

Practice One

Look at the summary below, break it into different parts of the report: Terms of
reference, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

In brief, the report sets out to list the present problems in out sales centre. It
draws attention to such features such as customer waiting time, seating
facilities, and obstacles outside the centre. Particular emphasis is placed on
the problems of manoeuvring around the centre. It concludes that, although
our service standards are generally above average, they still leave a lot to be
desired. As such, a major examination of our service system should be
conducted

Practice Two

1. Is it appropriate to write an executive summary for the following reports?

• Feasibility study
• Incident report
• Project or sales proposal
• Field trip report
• Annual report
• Progress report
• Situation analysis

2. Why or why not would you choose to include a summary?

3. Will you include a summary for your report?

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Appearance and layout


Make it look readable!

Discuss

1. What difference does it make if a report doesn't look particularly inviting?

2. What do you think makes a report attractive and interesting? (think about
colour, spacing, font, diagrams)

3. What features could you include to make a report look more readable?

4. Is there an ideal length for a report? If so, what is it?

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

The style sheet

Which is right? etc with or without a full stop? realize or realise?


Justification? double spacing?

Different people may have different personal preferences. It is not a matter of


right or wrong. All these alternatives are right. You may feel, however, that
certain alternatives are more modern, more common, more appropriate in
certain contexts, etc.

Whatever your feelings, it is important that documents which more than one
writer contribute to (such as newsletters) are consistent. This is why a style
sheet, distributed to all writers, is important.

It will take time to compile, but it will save much more time in the future because
you will have to do less editing for consistency.

Sample style sheet information

Covering page size; number of columns; column width; justification; general


structure; use of colour; use of rules (lines); choice of fonts / font sizes / font
styles (bold, italic) for headings, subheadings, captions, pull quotes, text body;
indentation; use of capitals; etc

Practice

On the next page are two versions of the same passage. What differences are
there? List them in the box below:

Text 1 Text 2

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© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

The Japanese Worker


In Japan, there is a close relationship between
In Japan, there is a close relationship workers and their companies. Employees work
between the worker and his company. The hard and do hours of unpaid overtime to make
employee works hard and does hours of unpaid their firms more efficient. If necessary, they
overtime to make his firm more efficient. If give up weekends with the family to go on
necessary, he gives up weekends with the business trips. They are loyal to their
family to go on business trips. He is loyal to his organizations and totally involved with them.
organisation and totally involved with them, For example, they live in company houses,
e.g. he lives in a company house, his friends are their friends are people they work with, and in
people he works with, and in his spare time he their spare time they do activities organized
does activities organised by his employers. This by their employers. This commitment is
commitment is rewarded by two benefits: rewarded by two benefits:
* job security
* regular pay increases • job security
The system of life-time employment • regular pay increases
creates a strong link between the enterprise
and its workforce. It covers about 35% of the The system of lifetime employment creates a
working population. Generally, when a person strong link between the enterprise and its
joins a firm after leaving High School or workforce. It covers about 35 percent of the
University, he expects to stay with the firm until working population. Generally, when a person
he retires. He has a secure job for life. joins a firm after leaving high school or
Therefore, he will not be laid off if the company university, he expects to stay with the firm
no longer needs him because there is no work. until he retires. He has a secure job for life.
Instead, it will retrain him for another position. Therefore, he will not be laid off if the
The pay of a worker depends on his company no longer needs him because there
seniority, ie on the years he has been with the is no work. Instead, it will retrain him for
firm. He can expect a pay increase on 1 January another position.
each year  these annual increases may be as
high as 200,000 yen. When he is 30 or 40 years The pay of a worker depends on his seniority,
old, therefore, he cannot afford to change jobs. that is to say, on the years he has been with
If he did move, he would also lose valuable the firm. He can expect a pay increase on
fringe benefits. Promotion depends on seniority January 1st each year  these annual
as well. Japanese Managers are rarely very increases may be as high as ¥200000. When
young, and Chief Executives are at least 60, he is 30 or 40 years old, therefore, he cannot
and very often 70 years old. afford to change jobs. If he did move, he would
The Japanese have a special way of also lose valuable fringe benefits. Promotion
making decisions. They call it the "consensus" depends on seniority as well. Japanese
system. This is how it works. When a firm is managers are rarely very young, and chief
thinking of taking a certain action, it executives are at least 60, and very often 70
encourages workers at all levels to discuss the years old.
proposal and give their well considered
opinions. The purpose is to reach consensus. As The Japanese have a special way of making
soon as everyone agrees on the right course of decisions. They call it the consensus system.
action, the decision is taken. This is how it works. When a firm is thinking of
Because of this method, a group of taking a certain action, it encourages workers
workers, rather than one person, is responsible at all levels to discuss the proposal and give
for company policies. Two advantages result their well-considered opinions. The purpose is
from this. One is that decisions come from a to reach consensus. As soon as everyone
mixture of experience from the top, the middle agrees on the right course of action, the
and the bottom of an enterprise. The other is decision is taken.
that junior staff frequently suggest ideas for
change. A disadvantage, perhaps, is that Because of this method, a group of workers,
decision making can be slow. rather than one person, is responsible for
company policies. 2 advantages result from
[from David Cotton World of Business, p 45]
 this. One is that decisions come from a
mixture of experience from the top, the middle
and the bottom of an enterprise. The other is
that junior staff frequently suggest ideas for
change. A disadvantage, perhaps, is that
decision-making can be slow.
THE JAPANESE WORKER

28

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

(from D. Cotton World of Business pp 405)

29

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Review document layout and style

Some principles of layout

Are the following statements good or bad advice on report layout and design?

1 Your readers probably only spend five minutes looking at your reports. So
it is not worth spending much time over the layout.

2 Your report front page should mention your organisation's name and
intended readership.

3 You must have a table of contents on the front page.

4 Wide columns are easier to read.

5 All text must be justified left and right.

6 Boxes and rules (lines) help to organise your material. So use lots of
them.

7 Your organisation's corporate colours (if your organisation has them)


should appear on every page.

8 White space is wasted space.

9 Headings should always be in capitals.

10 Use no more than two different fonts.

11 `A picture is worth a thousand words' - so spend longer working on the


pictures than on the text.

30

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Designing visual aids

Decide what type of diagram you would use to show:

1. How much has your company spent on training, leisure facilities and
pension schemes?
2. Introduce the three divisions in your company, and the eight departments
they are subdivided into, and explain the work of each.
3. What are your division’s profit/loss for the recently ended quarter in
contrast to the two previous quarters and your projections for the next
quarter?
4. What is the ratio of men to women in your company?
5. What is the procedure for handling complaints in your company?
6. How do you spend your time? A management Review of your department
is being carried out, and you have to justify your existence!
7. What was your company’s overall sales for the year ?
8. Can you compare the average starting salaries for graduates in
engineering, law, medicine and commerce?
9. What is your company’s procedure for dismissing employees ?

Referring to data

True of False?

1. You should not describe data, let it speak for itself.

2. You should only make a brief reference to the given data.

3. You should only describe the main points.

4. You should describe all the information.

Practice

Think about your workshop assignment report. What visual aids, if any, can
you include that will be meaningful and informative?

31

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The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Editing & proof reading


As you are writing you need to regularly edit your report. You should look
through it and check for the following points:

Is it relevant? - Consider the aim of the report.

Is it clear? - Check that it is well organised: overall, paragraphs, and


sentences.
- Check it is well constructed and easy to follow.

Is it consistent? - Check your style and opinion (for, against or neutral) is


the same throughout.

Is it correct? - Check your facts.


- Check your language, e.g. articles, prepositions etc

Is it concise? - Omit any information, phrases and words that are not
absolutely necessary.

True or false?

Checking for all these points at once is too complex and ineffective.

NOTE: An external editor should only need to make very minor changes, if any
to your report.

32

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Editing & proof reading


Proof reading can be a hard task job as it is difficult to check something you
have just written or typed.

With practice it is a skill you can acquire. Get into the habit of reading the
work you have typed or written. Concentrate on the text and you should
notice when a word is incorrect. Read each word, don’t skim through it as it is
easy to miss a word that is spelt wrong. Lastly, always have a dictionary to
hand because spell checks on computers are great but they do not pick up
every mistake. Therefore if you are not sure how to spell a word, look it up.

Here is a checklist of the most commonly misspelled words in English

Abnormally Decision Omission


Accommodation Definite Opposite
Acknowledge Diarrhoea Parallel
Acquire Disappoint Particularly
Address Endeavour Precedent
Apparently Essential Preferred
Appropriate Exceptionally Procedure
Assessment Expense Questionnaire
Basically Expertise Recommend
Beginning Feasible Referring
Benefited Guarantee Responsibility
Business Hierarchy Separate
Calendar Immediately Sincerely
Carefully Independent Statistical
Colleague Instalment Successfully
Commission Litigation Takeovers
Communication Necessary Timely
Comparatively Oblige Unnecessary
Correspondence Occasionally Unparalleled

Study the list for 5 minutes. Your trainer will then give you a short spelling
‘test’. The purpose of this test is so that YOU know your own weaknesses.

If you do discover you are a ‘poor speller’ (which even native speakers can
be!), we suggest you put this list on your notice board close to your desk so
you remember to check when you are writing.

33

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Editing & proof reading: punctuation


The following is a guide to using punctuation

1. Apostrophe’
The most common mistakes in punctuation involve the apostrophe. It
has two main uses:

a. To show possession:
e.g. Dickens’ novel
the people’s choice
b. To show that a letter (or letters) have been missed out of a word:
e.g. I can’t come to the meeting tomorrow. We’re having a training
session.
NOTE: It’s raining.
The car has just failed its MOT

2. (Brackets)
Avoid using them too much. Only put words in brackets if they are really
less important than the surrounding text. If a whole sentence is in within
brackets, put the full stop inside the brackets.

e.g. She decided not to buy the car this year (because of the
recession).
She decided not to buy the car this year. (She said it was because
of the recession.)

3. Capital Letters
These are straightforward but remember:

a. March, October, Sunday to Thursday, Christmas, Eid, South Asia.


BUT: spring, summer, south
b. Capital letters for specific job titles in general:
e.g. Ms Marlow is the Sales Manager now.
Next Tuesday she will be going to a meeting for all sales
managers in the London area.

4. Colon:
Use a colon before an example or a list.

e.g. Here are the books you asked for: “Gone with the Wind”, “Pride
and Prejudice”, “The Deptford Trilogy” and “The Daughter of Time”.

Use a colon before a complete quoted sentence. However, there is no


need to use a colon before a quoted phrase or part-sentence.

e.g. She said: “We are not amused.”


She said that she was “not amused”.

34

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The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

NOTE: The colon + hyphen (:-) is no longer used.

5. Comma,
These are used to show minor breaks or “breaths” in sentences. The
trend is to use as few as possible, while keeping the meaning of the
sentence clear. You must use a comma after clauses beginning
‘although’, ‘if’, ‘despite’, etc.

Also use a comma for lists (but there is no need to use it before the
“and” at the end of the list):

Use two commas, or none at all, if you insert a clause in the middle of a
sentence.

6. Dash-
Avoid using them. People tend to use a dash to join to parts of a
sentence when really they should simply have written two separate
sentences.

7. Full stop.
Use these at the end of sentences. Use lots of them. They keep
sentences short. Also use them for some abbreviations, although this is
happening less and less.

NOTE: Do not use a full stop after: ‘Ms’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Ms’, ‘Miss’, ‘Dr’

8. Hyphen-
It is becoming increasingly acceptable to miss out hyphens, except in
phrases which would otherwise be ambiguous or difficult to understand:

e.g. in the short term BUT this is only a short-term solution.


e.g. two one-day courses

The important thing is to be consistent.

9. “Inverted commas”
Inverted commas can be either single(‘) or double (“). It does not matter
but you must be consistent.

They have three main uses:


a. At the beginning and end of direct speech or quotations.
b. Around the titles of books or other publications.
c to introduce specialist or technical terms
e.g. “Clients” are people who pay for our services.
(Next time the clients are used, it will not need to be written in inverted
commas)

35

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

10. Colon/Semi Colon


Avoid using them except:

a. to link two sentences closely, especially for contrast or comparison.


e.g. We could buy a Xerox photocopier; on the other hand, it might be
worth sending work out to be copied by a printer.

b. to separate longish items in a list, especially if some items include


commas already:
e.g. This year we can afford to: rebuild and redecorate the
cloakrooms; replace carpets on all floors, except for the basement
and canteen; buy new furniture for our Birmingham and Leeds
offices; and replace two of the four company cars.

36

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Punctuation practice

Test your own knowledge of punctuation!

Correctly punctuate the following sentences.

1. before leaving the office mr bondino reviewed the next days programme

2. this document outlines the main areas of the oppositions activity.

3. the head of administration had wanted to interview mashud but was unable
to keep the appointment

4. martin haber my exboss was at the meeting

5. abc textiles and its subsidiaries have been absorbed by the growtex group

6. she asked is she could have the holiday before she got married

7. while many people are concerned about minor pollutants such as solid
waste the more serious problem of toxic waste has surfaced

8. production costs have risen to an all time high said the managing director.

9. motivation is not enough you must have more training

37

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Checking the fog index


Some people say that meaning is made more difficult by long words and long
sentences. The Fog Index measures the readability of a document. This is a
system devised by Robert Gunning and explained in his book The Technique of
Clear Writing. He described writing which is difficult to take in as being ‘foggy’,
hence the name.

To calculate the Fog Index, you choose a passage of more than a hundred
words and then find the average number of words in each sentence by dividing
the number of complete sentences into the number of words in those
sentences.

Next you count the number of words with /// three or more syllables. Words
beginning with a capital letter, those ending with -es or -ed and compound
words like ‘traffic-lights’ are left out. The average number of words in the
sentences is added to the number of words of three or more syllables, and the
result is then multiplied by 0.4.

Putting this as a formula:

Fog Index = 0.4 (x + y)

where: x = average number of words per sentence


y = number of difficult words

In these paragraphs, up to the oblique lines (///), there are 100 words.
Calculate its Fog Index (FI). The analysis is below:

This is what the FI is supposed to indicate:

• a score of under 10 : the passage can be easily read

• scores of 11, 12, or 13 : bright people can read it

• scores of 14 and upwards: only those with a good university education can
read it.

Alternatively:

The resulting number can be taken to signify the number of years education
needed by the reader to understand the passage, i.e. the Fog Index.

38

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Almost all audiences prefer to read well below their education levels and so
when there is a serious intention to communicate the calculation of the fog
index is worthwhile.

Popular magazines in the UK are said to have a Fog Index of about six.
Newspapers in the UK have Fog Indexes varying from about 10 to 14. There is
evidence to suggest that even those with a PhD will not spend prolonged time
reading material with a fog index of over 13! Analysis of business
communication, however, show them to be frequently in the range of 17 to 20.

Two factors to note about the Fog Index:

1. Achieving a low Fog Index does not itself mean that documentation is
readable, as the effective removal of communication barriers is not simply a
matter of using simple words and short sentences. Jargon, for example, can
prevent communication and will not necessarily create a high Fog Index when
included in a text.

4. Sometimes a high Fog Index cannot be easily avoided, when writing about
“auditing organisational communications” for example.

In summary, when reviewing make your report easy to read by doing


these:

• Avoiding jargon
• Using plain English
• Using short words
• Using short sentences
• Using short paragraphs

39

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Editing & proof reading


Think about all the points we have discussed about editing and proof reading.
Look at the section of a report below on breastfeeding, and say what problems
there are.

Then, show how you would edit it.

There are various reasons why breastfeeding as even the manufaturers of

baby food admit (such as Kinda, Hovis) is best for mother and baby. In this

connection, in the first place the milk come raedy-mixed germ-free and at the

right temperature. Secondly, the sypply is portable, readily available and by

and large inexpensive and finally the quality and quantity of the milk adjust

automatically to the babys needs, as long as the mother eat and sleeps well.

Mothers may sometimes feel side-effects. Moreover, both mother and baby

generally derives great satisfaction from this shared pleasure, and it also

builds up the babys defences against disaease. Let us look at each of the

points in some deatil. Starting with the health factors ……… Then there is

convinience....

40

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Report writing checklist


To summarise all the work that you have done during the workshop, here is a
list of questions to ask yourself when you are writing a report.

If you can answer yes to all the questions then you have probably written an
effective report.

4 Are you clear about the exact subject of the report?

4 Do you know who will read the report?

4 Have you assembled the relevant information from the available sources?

4 Have you been able to draw conclusions and make recommendations based
on your findings?

4 Have you made a plan of your report and are you happy with the plan?

4 Have you considered the layout of your report?

4 Have you made a draft of your report?

4 Have you edited your draft, checking such things as spelling, punctuation,
line spacing, headings, numbering etc?

4 Have you checked the grammar in your report, remember the mistakes
that you commonly make?

4 Is your final draft Accurate, Brief and Clear?

Now look at your assignment report.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to all these questions?

41

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Recap
From this workshop you should realise that writing a document – no matter
how short – is not finished with one draft. The process is quite extensive:

Collect ideas

Focus on objectives

Structure & organise

Draft

Evaluate

Re-draft

Re-evaluate

Proof Read

.....

42

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

Appendix 1
The standard format of some common style reports.

1. A project proposal

Position
Problem
Possibilities
Proposal
Appendix

2. An incident report

Background
Incident detail
Conclusion
Action

3. A project progress report

Introduction
Background to project
Current Situation
Conclusion
Recommendation (next stages for project)
Appendix (if necessary)

4. A feasibility study

Terms of reference
Description of product or service
Analysis of main findings (eg costs, market surveys etc)
Conclusion
Recommendations for implementation
Appendix

5. An appraisal report

Background on agreed job/objectives for the year


Performance review against job description
Performance review against yearly objectives
Overall performance
Staff member’s comments (if any)
Signatures of manager and staff member

(some may also including a rating system after the overall comments)

43

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The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.
Business & IT Unit

6. Trip report

Introduction (Factual information such as date, time etc)


Background
Observations
Conclusion
Recommendation
Appendix

7. Personal Progress Report (Monthly report against workplan)

Background (period covered)


Monthly work (broken into sections such as Projects, Meetings, Trips,
Achievements, Other)
Conclusion (analysis of personal time management & duties)
Recommendations (adjustments/action for next month)

44

© The British Council Dar es Salaam 2007

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in
England as a charity.