The cover letter is either attached to the outside of the report with a paper clip or is bound within the report. It is a communication from you—the report writer—to the recipient, the person who requested the report and who may even be paying you for your expert consultation. Essentially, it says “Here is the report that we agreed I’d complete by such-and-such a date. Briefly, it contains this and that, but does not cover this or that. Let me know if it meets your needs.” The cover letter explains the context—the events that brought the report about. It contains information about the report that does not belong in the report.
In the example of the cover letter that follows in the next section (10.2), notice the standard business-letter format. If you write an internal report, use the memorandum format instead. In either case, the contents and organization are the same:
First paragraph. Cites the name of the report, putting it in italics. It also mentions the date of the agreement to write the report.
Middle paragraph. Focuses on the purpose of the report and gives a brief overview of the report’s contents.
Final paragraph. Encourages the reader to get in touch if there are questions, comments, or concerns. It closes with a gesture of good will, expressing hope that the reader finds the report satisfactory.
As with any other element in a report, you may have to modify the contents of this letter (or memo) for specific situations. For example, you might want to add another paragraph, listing questions you’d like readers to consider as they review the report.