Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Write On

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Write On

Article excerpt

The Sarbanes-Oxley act has brought both opportunities and challenges. CPAs engaged to write documentation enter a new world of narratives, control assessments, testing and remediation plans--but writing documents with clarity is an art form. To improve your skills, avoid painful rewrites and produce great documentation, here are some simple tips:

[] Write to the least knowledgeable reader. Put yourself in the place of someone with minimal technical and accounting skills and explain processes in clear, simple language to that audience. Do not assume the reader will know what a control activity or test is.

[] Set up templates to standardize documentation and use consistent terminology. For example, always call an MIS department by the same name (not the "IT department" or "computer group" or both).

[] Make editing and reviews intrinsic parts of the documentation process. The time spent on the audit increases dramatically when management doesn't perform documentation reviews, says a KPMG partner.

[] Be mindful of questions. Questions are an indication that you need to make issues clearer.

[] Write short sentences instead of long ones. Describe process flows, paperwork, software, control activities and procedures in brief concise language. Specify whether an item is a paper or a computer process.

[] Don't use humor or subjective remarks. Avoid writing sentences such as "The overworked payroll clerk somehow manages to input a huge number of changes." Stick to the facts.

[] Use active voice whenever possible. …

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