USES OF INFORMAL FORMATS
Writers frequently use informal formats, in many variations, such preprinted forms and outline reports. Because the format is so versatile. can use it for nearly any kind of content. This section introduces you to several variations.
Brief Analysis Reports
Brief analysis reports are very common in industry. They present conclusions about an endless array of problems that beset normal operating procedures. Like the example below, they often have an objective, summary, introduction (optional), conclusions, and a discussion built around a visual aid.
AGE BAKING MEMORANDUM
Date: November 5, 1990
To: Tom Patterson
From: Ted Umentum
Subject: REDUCTION OF FATIGUE FACTOR
To show that a modified conveyor belt will reduce employee fatigue and back problems
The workers in Department B are sustaining reduced output due to fatigue and backaches. This problem will be solved by raising the height of the conveyor belt, to reduce unnecessary bending for these workers
Recently A(JeBaking Consultants conducted a study comparing the productlon output of one department of workers with the output of another department. These consultants found that as the workday progressed, output of Department A stayed constant whereas Department B decreased considerably
The workers in Department B are sustaining reduced output . due to fatigue and backaches. After numerous observations, have found that these workers are suffering from these health problems because the conveyor belt, from which they pick up products to be packed, is too low to the ground. This poor position of the conveyor belt causes workers to bend over further than necessary to retrieve products. The extra bending is the cause of numerous back problems, which result in medical expenses paid by the company. It is also the cause of increased fatigue, resulting in a lower production output rate per s-hour shift (see Table 1).
Mean Number of Units Produced per Hour in Departments Aand B
As you can see in Table 1, the production rate of Department B, per hour, decreases considerably towards the lunch break, whereas the ·production rate of Department A stays relatively consistent. Both departments then receive an hour break for lunch and return to work. Once again the production rate of Department B decreases until quitting time, whereas Department A remains consistent.
My proposal is to implement a modified conveyor belt. The proposed conveyor belt will stand 8 to 10 inches higher than the previous conveyor. This procedure can be accomplished by soidering an 8- to 10-inch extension piece to each of the existing legs consecutively and then refastening the conveyor to the floor. This modification of the conveyor will increase producti:i~ty due to reduced stress from bending over. The mocltlcatton will also reduce medical expenses paid out by the company due to past backaches.
Another solution considered was to implement an adjustable conveyor belt that would automatically adjust to a number of different heiQhts.This solution was rejected because of its high cost.
As part of your job you may often take trips to conferences or to other sites. Many companies require that, upon your return, you file a trip report to discuss your activities and main experiences. To write a good trip report, you must prepare before you start your trip (Reirfl.old).You should ask your boss and colleagues what information they would like you to discover. For example, if you are planning to attend the Widget Designers International Convention, your colleagues might want-to learn more about environmental concerns in recycling widgets and new software to aid in widget design and simulation. At the conference, you would look especially for that kind of information.
A good trip report includes an introduction, information on the specific concerns of your readers, and information on topics of general interest to the company. You should provide
- as much relevant, specific information as possible
- the significance of those specifics for your company
SAMPLE TRIP REPORT
Date: April 10, 19XX
To: C. M. Kirkland
From: James Hall
Subject: 1990 Widget Designers International Convention
This report discusses the Annual Widget Designers International Convention held in Jonesboro, Tennessee on April 1. The convention featured sessions on widget recycling and computerized widget design. Also featured were discussions of widget quality control and displays of other computer developments for widget design
Dr. Janet Polansky reported on widget recycling bills now under consideration. A federal bill before Congress will require all manufacturers of more than one thousand widgets per hour to cdhtribute one cent per widget to the Superfund. This fee would.gause our price to rise. State laws are still a hodgepodge, but the emerging issue appears to be biode-: gradability. All nonblodeqjadabte widgets will be outlawed on
the East and West coasts by 1992. Developing a biodegradable widget would give us a olear competitive edge since we would not lose customers in that area
A new design program – Widget! – allows designers to simulate up to five simultaneous designs in any widget application. The program costs $895. I learned the basics in a one-hour workshop. The program is remarkably easy. The five designs can be produced in two hours, down from the current three days.
While quality control is not an issue here at Wheeler-Amalgamated, . impressive reductions on waste have been achieved with Data special “quality teams” at Nash Incorporated. These teams make surprise inspections and, if necessary, hold ~raining sessions immediately. They also – and this is the key – offer positive reinforcement for achieving preset goals.
The displays contained exhibits from our competitors – about the same as those detailed in last year’s report. A new development. though, is the use of color computer slide shows thdl ~19hlight each product. Our booth did nOI contain such a system and so seemed old-fashioned. I recommend that we investigate this approach for next year.
A laboratory report communicates information gained through laboratory tests, the most rigid of all data-gathering methods. The outline below presents the usual form for writing a lab report. This basic approach will work in most situations.
Results (often in tabular form)
Discussion of Results
A laboratory report’s descriptions of methodology affirm the accuracy of the data that is discussed. Not all laboratory reports include recommendations. The following professional report attempts to determine the difference between a new resin and standard ones. Note how the introduction gives the purpose and indicates, by its structure, the contents of the body. The section entitled Results and Discussion also contains a d’escription of methodology. Only selections from the report are presented here.
SAMPLE LABORATORY REPORT
Work has continued in evaluation of new-technology polypropylene resins to determine the differences between these materials and standard polypropylene resins and how.these differences might De exploited to provide improved product performance. Results from this work are described in the following report
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Evaluation of XVZ Co. New-Technology
POlypropylene Resin ,
XYZ Co. supplied us with a 1OOO-ibsample of new-technology polypropylene resin, Lot #486. This material was prepared at its new U.S. manufacturing facility. The resin was evaluated in our laboratory in comparison to XYZ’s currently supplied material (Lot #312) and also in comparison to a second sample of new-technology material from XYZ prepared from European-made flake (Lot #687). Lot #687, described in this report, is a remake of Lot #13577, which was evaluated in the Film Division last December.
These resins were evaluated to determine melt flow-rate (before and after processing), die swell, polydispersity, thermal characteristics, processability, physical property performance, and tape properties. Initial melt flow-rate, die swell, and polydispersity results and thermal characteristics of these materials were reported previously (L.B. Brown. Technical Report Summary·#O.o4, June 1990). Processability and.
performance results for these materials are discussed below; the three materials were evaluated in July.
Table 1 summarizes before-. and alter-processinp melt flow-rate and die swell results for XYZ standard-technology and new-technology polypropylene resins. All measurements were made~sing ihe melt plastorneter in the laboratory. ( As seen from the data in Table 1, the new-technology, U.S.-made pOlypropylene resin has a slightly lower melt flowrate and lower die swell compared to the standard polypropylene resin. The melt flow-rate for this sample is also much higher than that of the previously supplied resin sample prepared from European-made flake, ‘while the die swell is much lower. An increase in melt flow-rate from 2 to 3 g/10 minutes had been recommended by XYZ personnel for Lot #486 in order to decrease extruder gate pressure; there had been a 30% increase in gate ‘pressure compared to the control resin, as well as an increase in extruder current-draw when processing lot #577 in the December evaluation. Some of the previously observed differences in gate pressure and current draw for processing the new-technology resin may just be attributed to the difference in melt flow-rate of the two samples. The current adjustment in melt fiow-rate for Lot #486 brought a decrease in extruder gate pressure to approximately 15% greater than the control material.
Melt Flow-Rale and Die for XYZ Co. Polypropylene Resin
An expanded outline is a common type of report, set up like a resume, with distinct headings. This form often accompanies an oral presentation. The speaker follows the outline, explaining detail at the appropriate places. Since members of the audience have copies of the report and do not have to t~~ notes, they comprehend more. Procedural specifications and retail management reports often use this form. The writer assumes that the reader already knows the terminology. Usually the reader does, especially if the form is specifications. The brevity of the form allows the writer to condense material, but of course the reader must be able to cumprehend the condensed information. To write this kind of report, follow these guidelines:
- Use heads to indicate sections and to function as introductions.
- Present information in phrases or sentences, not paragraphs.
- Indent information, like in an outline, underneath the appropriate head.
SAMPLE OUTLINE REPORT
CNC PUNCH PRESS PURCHASE:
WARDELL MAGNUM XQP VS. WEBER 150B
DECEMBER 16. 19XX
The preprintedform is common. This section explains two commonly used types: a brief rnessage form and a controlled information form.
Most firms use printed memo forms for brief hand- ‘written notes. The forms have spaces for entering the recipient’s name, the sender’s name, and a brief message. Some forms have boxes to check to indicate “please return call” or “for. your information” or “file” or whatever Sometimes these forms are very small – 4 x 4 inches – ‘and sometimes they are the size of standard paper — 81f2 x 11 inches. . A typical memo form, used by Ohio Datagraphics Company, is shown in Figure 11.2. The top of the.memo form provides space for the writer’s
name, the reader’s name, the subject, and the date. Company practice or policy will dictate the content of these spaces. To fill in a printed form, use these guidelines:
- Write legibly or type.
- Indicate the contents of the memo on the subject line.
- Write the main point first, then give sUPP9rt.
Controlled Information Form
The controlled information form provides spaces that the reader must fill in. Examples includetax forms, policy statements, and proposal applications. The reader places the required in; formation, as directed, in the required space. A university grant proposal form (Research Initiative Proposal) is shown in Figure l1.3. It has spaces for all pertinent items: name and date, department, proposal title; and total
To fill in controlled information forms, use the following guidelines:
- Write legibly or type.
- Draft several versions before you attempt the final version’. (photocopy the original to ~se for planning and writing your drafts.) ,
- In, each space, place the main idea first, then give support.
Research Initiative Proposal
Answer each question only in the space provided.
Name the objective of your proposal’
What methodology will you use to achieve the objective?
Explain how you will evaluate your success:
Explain how this project fits your department’s mission:
On a separate sheet, provide budget estimates for salary, fringes,
materials, supplies and services, and travel.
Cuntrnllcd Information Form
If-you design a form like this, follow these guidelines:
- Make all rules long enough for their intended information .
- Allow enough space between lines so that the respondent’s words will fit. While lO-point type is easy to read, it is difficult to produce
handwriting that small.
- Carefully consider how much space to provide for open-ended questions.
- (If respondents will type in answers, how many lines can they fit in ‘:le space you leave? II respondents handwrite answers, allow enough space to accommodate all the idiosyncrasies of handwriting.)
- Ask only for information you will use.
- Arrange items so that they are clumped by topic .
- Arrange items so that you can compare answers easily.
To provide readers with timely information, informal reports are common
in industry. The informal report, usually only one or two pages, often uses
a memo format and may use a preprinted introductory page. Always as
concise as ‘possible, the informal report often follows this outline: introduction,
summary, background, conclusions and recommendations, and
discussion. The object of the introduction is to orient the reader quickly;
three common types of introductions are (1) to state the objective, (2) to
provide context or general background, or (3) to orient the reader to a problem.
Many kinds (If informal brief reports arc used in business and industry,
especially short analysis, trip, and lab reports.
WORKSHEET FOR INFORMAL REPORTS
Select and write the type of introduction you need:
To give objective of the report
To provide context, background
To alert readers to the problem .
Prepare a style sheet for heads (2 to 4 levels), margins, page ‘”
numbers, visual aid captions. , .
Decide whether to use a memo format or a preprinted introductory
sheet (if available). “0
Will each new section start. at the top of a new page?
Prepare the visual aids you need.
- Photocopy the blank form to use for planning and for writing rough draft.
- Study the questions to pick out key words. What kinds of data will supply the answers?
- Who will read this form? What kind of information do they need or expect?
- Brainstorm answers for each question.
- Write a topic-sentence answer to each question supply additional detail as needed.
- Type up the final form.
A professional model of an informal report follows. Derived from research
in data bases, the report is an in-house memo describing the actions of
competitors. The purpose of this report is to inform its audience. oticc
that it presents ,all the basic information in the introductory sections and
·then gives the information again, in more complete form, in the discussion
Determine what competitive food companies are doing to improve the culinary
skills of their employees in order to facilitate more rapid formulation of high-quality
foods, entrees, and restaurant products
The following companies actively support development of culinary skills within
their R & D organizations:
Real Delight – sends master chefs to culinary schools ancj seminars,
Foote International – hires bakers from a French baking school and operates
an in-house school for franchisers
This literature search on culinary-skills development was comprehensive, covering
the U,S. food-processing industry in general. Although major competitors such as
National, Wheeler, and Real Delight were looked at specifically, results were not
limited to any predetermined list of food companies, I am confident that the
information provided in this search is all that can be found in the publicly available
literature discussing this topic.
The two consumer f”nd and beverage companies identified have publicly discussed
the trainiog of thc’r employees in culinary skills either by professionals outside the
organization or thro~gh in-house training programs.
Last September, Pro Food Consultants, an industry-service
division of Pro Foods, Inc., conducted a healthy foods workshop for master chets from
the Real Delight Company. The three-day seminar, Pro Food’s Cooking, was ‘leld at
the Pro headquarters in Expensive, PA.The program was designed to share Pro
Food’s expertise regarding the health-conscious consumer’s concerns and hterdsts,
and to-explore the wide variety of nutritious ingredients and preparat.on technuuos
that appeal to this market.
Four Real Delight chefs – V, Wolfe, S. Hultel, E. Teye, and J. Medelrnan — joined the
Pro Food’sCooking staff of food technologists, culinary artists, nun.uonlsts: chemists, and
researchers in discussions and hands-on cooking exercises rela!dr. to consumer
interests in health, especially salt, sugar, fat, fiber, and protein in the diet. According to
the director, Marion Sctlweisguth, Pro Food’s Cooking is the avenue through which Pro
Food’s information and expertise become available in the food industry.
Earlier this month, Real Delight announced that its Delightvan will tour ten U.S.
cities, serving free cups of hot soup to many of the nation’s outdoor workers and
needy. The ten cities that the Delightvan will visit this month are Chicago, Tulsa,
Nashville, Portland, Seattle, Baltimore, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and
Indianapolis. Bill Jones and Dave McCordick, chefs with extensive food-service
experience and CUlinarytraining, will prepare and serve Real Delight’s soup from
the Delightvan. Between them, the chefs have served such notables as Prince
Philip of England and Presidents Ford, Carter, and Nixon. In addition, Jones
attended a culinary training seminar at the Ccrdon-Bleu in Paris.
The production, marketing, and dlstribution efforts of
Foote International have made croissants the dominant item in the corporate
product line. While sales of Foote croissants – through product-line and market
expansion – have advanced dramatically, the company has just begun to tap the
potential market for its bread and related pastry products.
Access to baking technology at the Clare Kelly School of Baking has aided the
company in its production process and new product development. Foote International
currently employs approximately 15 Fr~nch-trained bakers. Their training involves
a minimum of four years’ experience in France, before spending six months at
the School of Baking and then being selected to join Foote International.
In 1981 the company began to franchise its retail bakeries to-restaurants and
other food retailers who bake and sell the complete product line, under the name ,
Foote International, in their own businesses. The franchise manager and baker
must successfully complete a two-week course at the Foote International Baking
School, which covers such areas as proprietary frozen dough processes, production
control, baker management, and product merchandising.
Materials use~ in preparing this search report are available lor perusal.
- Dialog InformationRetrievalService.File 15:Abillnform,August 1971-January 1986.
- Dialog Information Retrieval Service. File 192: Arthur D. Little/Online, 1977- November 1985.
- Dialog Information Retrieval Service. File 196: Find/Svp Reports and Studies Index, 1977-November 1985.
- Dialog Information Retrieval Service. File 545: Investext (Business Research Corporation). July 1982-JanuafY 9, 1986.
- Dialog Information Retrieval Service. File 47: Magazine Index, 1959.March 1970, 1973 – January 1986.
- Dialog Information Retrieval Service. File 79: Foods Ad/ibra, 1974-January 1986.
- In groups of three or four, analyze the results and discussion section
of the report on pp. 236-237. Each paragraph has a specific function.
Decide what the functions are and evaluate the effectiveness of the
paragraphs and of the whole section. Make a brief oral report to the
- In groups of three or four, analyze the sections of the “Galaxy Foods”
report on pp. 243-244. How does the summary relate to the discussion’!
Do you feel that you know everything you need to know after reading
the first few paragraphs? What does the discussion section add to the
- Assume that you have been assigned by your department manager to
explain an important process, concept, or mechanism to the new vice
president of your division. Write a memo report using one of the introductory
methods explained in this chapter. Consider topics such as just-in-time
manufacturing, sterilizing bottles before filling them with milk, the
method.of depreciation used by your company, the way your hospital
analyzes a patient’s nutritional intake, or see lists of topics given at the
ends of Chapters 2, 3, 8, and 9.
- Write an informal re~ ·rt in which you use a table or graph to explain a
problem to your manager. Use the “alert the reader to the problem”
introduction, summary, and discussion sections explained in this chapter.
Select ~ problem from ~'”ur area of professional interest, for example,
a problem you solved (or saw someone else solve) on a job. Consider
topics ~.uch as pilferage of towels in a hotel, difficulties in manufacturing
a machine part, drop in sales in a store in a mall, difficulties with a
measuring device in a lab, or problems in the shipping department of a
- Write an outline report in which you summarize the major points of two
articles on a topic in your field.
- Write an outline report in which you summarize a long report that you
have written or are writing. Depending on your instructor’s requirements,
use a report you have already written in ‘another class or one that you
are writing in this class.
- Say that you have to give an oral presentation: write and hand out an
outline report that will serve as “notes” for your speech.
- Form into groups of three or four. Create a form that requires students
to fill in the blanks. The form should require essay answers, not just yes
or no answers. For the next class, type the form and make enough copies
for your classmates. Have the rest of the class fill it out. Then do one of
two things (or both depending on your instructor): (1) read all the answers
and evaluate the effectiveness of the form, then write a memo report
giving the results of your evaluation, or (2) create a table 01: graph that
displays the information that you have collected, then write a memo
report explaining the results. Possible topics include opinions on issues
in student life, such as the effectiveness of certain courses in a major
or the effectiveness of distribution requirements in the total curriculum.
Or you could create a mock·work situation in which you require workers
to express opinions about safety concerns.
Riordan, Timothy. City of Day ion: 1986Program Strategies. Dayton, OH: City of
Reimold, Cheryl. “The T;ip Report Part 1: Preparation.” The Tappi Joumal69.10
The Trip Report Part 2: Writing the Draft.” The Tappi jOllrlla/69.11 (1986):
“The TripReport Part 3: The Report Itself.” The Tappi jOl/rIlIl/69.12 (1986):