As accountants, we know the significance of numbers. But in the process of balancing our debits and credits, it is easy to forget the significance of words. Although it’s important to develop and maintain our skills in spreadsheets, calculations, and analysis, our writing skills are just as important.
Take for example an audit engagement: the audited financial statements may be (materially) mathematically correct, but if the accompanying report contains grammatical mistakes, poorly-constructed sentences, or ambiguous language, then the audit report suffers as a whole.
Another example is an accountant’s expert report in a fraud investigation. The calculation of fraud losses becomes ineffective (and the expert may lose credibility) if the report is confusing or puts the jury to sleep.
Just like anything else, good grammar and effective writing require practice and the occasional “refresher” course. Having some go-to resources and easy rules of thumb readily accessible makes the task a little less daunting for those of us who typically have numbers on the brain.
Here’s a checklist of some simple grammar “ground rules” to keep in mind as you’re writing:
Before issuing anything in writing, always do a final read-through for anything listed in the checklist above. Reading through a report at least once just for grammar reveals mistakes that you may not have seen when you were focused on the content. And of course, have someone unrelated to the report read it through as well. They may catch something you didn’t!