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How to Write Progress Reports: Purpose, Structure & Content

Progress reports can be important documents, both to communicate within an organization and to communicate with clients and others outside an organization. Watch this lesson to find out how to write a progress report.

Progress Reports

Jonah has a big project at work that’s really stressing him out. He has to coordinate several people who are all in charge of part of the project, and he has to make sure that it’s all done on time. And now, his boss has asked him for a progress report. Jonah doesn’t know what to put in the report or how to format it.

A progress report is a written record of what has been done and what is left to do on a project. That is, it is a report of the progress that has been made on the project, which is why it is aptly named a progress report.

Progress reports serve several functions. They can reassure the recipients that progress is being made (or inform them of delays in a project), like Jonah updating his boss on the project at work. Progress reports can also be used to establish and formalize duties of team members, tie down a work schedule for a project, and discuss possible problems in the project or its timeline.

To help Jonah write his progress report, let’s look at the common formats of a progress report and the content, or what he should include in the report.

Types of Formats

Jonah knows he needs to write a progress report for his boss, but he’s not sure how it should look. Does he need to put it in a binder with a cover? Should he put it on company letterhead? Or should he just jot some notes down in an email?

Progress reports can come in many different forms, but there are three primary formats that most people use for their progress reports:

  1. Memo: Often, a short memo is all that is needed for a progress report that is shared within an organization. For example, Jonah’s progress report is going to his boss, and he’ll also give copies to all the project members. Since all of them work at the same company, he might choose to write the progress report as a memo.
  2. Letter or email: Sometimes, instead of a memo, people choose to write progress reports as letters or, more commonly today, emails. Like memos, these types of progress reports are generally short. However, unlike memos, letters and emails are reports that can be shared either within or outside of an organization. So if, for example, Jonah needed to share the progress report both with his boss and with his company’s client, he might choose a letter or email.
  3. Formal report: Both memos and emails are pretty informal. But the third common format is a formal report. This is a longer document, and it is often bound in a binder or presentation folder. Formal reports are usually used for progress reports that are shared outside of an organization. For example, if Jonah were writing a progress report for the client, he might choose to share in a formal report.

Since Jonah’s progress report is going out to his boss and coworkers, he probably won’t want to format it as a formal report. He could present it as a memo or letter, but Jonah thinks that email is a good format for it. It’s convenient, and everyone can have an electronic copy saved.