We have so much mythology surrounding great writers, it is amazing we ever finish a paragraph.
Our greatest writers are often fabled to be lonely and tortured – ala Ernest Hemingway. How romantic and noble you would be if you could, like Hemingway, extract meaning out of nothingness on a rusty old typewriter after slamming back a shot of whisky and lighting a cigarette that now dangles from your mouth. Oh, how you loathe writing but you are drawn to it like a moth to the flame because it is only through the written word that your soul will be immortalized…
Whoa! I got carried away there. Writing an audit report isn’t like that at all!
First of all, we aren’t after the Nobel Prize in Literature! Secondly, I have never seen a romantic audit report! Thirdly, we aren’t allowed to drink or smoke at work. HA.
Now that we have ditched those silly expectations, let us rationally approach (like a good auditor always does) these 5 audit report writing tips so that we save time and reduce frustration for ourselves and our dear audit team:
Tip #1. Don’t try to do it all in one sitting
Your high school English teacher was right – you have to treat each phase of writing separately. You have to separate the outline phase from the draft phase from the editing phase.
If you combine any of the phases together, you get frustration and wasted time. For instance, if you plan what you are going to write as you draft it, you end up rambling on and on; you start one place and end up another. This makes the final phase of writing – the editing phase – excruciating!
And, if you edit while you draft, you may never finish. You may write the same sentence multiple times. And after that much rewriting, you’ll need a coffee break . . . and then you start again, and take a break again, and start again. . . . At that rate you’ll be lucky to finish one paragraph a day!
Although it is counter-intuitive that you will save time overall if you do each phase separately, you do end up saving time. It is especially important to dedicate time to planning. Brian Tracy says, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution!”
Of course, you could choose to ignore your English Teacher and Brian Tracy in order to take on the brooding persona of Ernest Hemingway. He famously said when asked how to be a great writer, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” Ah… that’s a little over the top there, Ernie.
This is one of the biggest audit report writing tips of all time! Delay writing full sentences for as long as possible. Because once you write a sentence, you become married to it, and you may not be able to see its flaws (just like in true romance!)
You have spent precious time and effort choosing each word and arranging the words intelligently. Woe be it to the reviewer that puts a red pen to your masterpiece!
What I often found in my role as editor at an audit office is that, once I had come to a big-picture understanding of the issue, massive cuts were necessary to clean up an auditor’s findings. Talk about PAIN. Whole families of precious sentences would get wiped out during my review!
Eventually, I figured out that if I asked the team to submit an outline of their report or finding to me before they wrote full sentences, we minimized the pain considerably because the auditor didn’t care much when I suggested moving phrases around in the outline.
Admit it, don’t you just hate it when someone rewrites your sentence? Don’t give your reviewer a chance to do that! Show the reviewer an outline before you draft and ask them to commit to the outline. Then write according to the outline and everyone will be happy and the lives of precious little sentences will be spared.
A tortured perfectionist waits until the audit report is polished and honed before she lets another soul see it. See a set up for disappointment coming here?
Instead of setting yourself up for an inevitable fall, turn in deliverables to your reviewer or supervisor as you go. This way, you reduce the possibility that the supervisor will be surprised or displeased with the final product.
What deliverables am I talking about? There are many possibilities, but at a minimum make sure that the supervisor likes your objective before you start testing and that the supervisor likes your audit finding outline before you draft.
As scary as it is to share your ideas and your writing with others, sharing always helps to clarify your thoughts and hone your message. Before you draft, find someone whose opinion you respect, and let that person read your outline. Ask this trusted someone:
- Do you think the reader will be interested in this finding?
- Do you think the recommendation is sound? Is this something the client will implement?
- Should I be happy if the client implements this recommendation? If the client does what I am asking, would I be able to leave them alone about this issue on the next audit?
- Can you think of another effect for this issue? An effect that may have more impact on the reader?
- What changes do you suggest?
- Do you think I am ready to proceed to creating full sentences for this issue?
Their insights will take your writing to another level. Even Hemingway had an editor.
Tip #5: Give yourself space
Not a physical space to write in (although a dark but breezy apartment above a noisy bar in Key West would be ideal), but some “time” space to refresh your mind in. In other words, put some distance between you and your written work so that you become more objective about it.
Not everything you write deserves the light of day, but you can’t see what needs to be cut until you put a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks between you and your work.
Even Hemingway went out to the bullfights or out tarpon fishing to give himself a space between his first draft and his own edits. When he came back to review his writing after a day at sea, he said, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of s..t. I try to put the s..t in the wastebasket.”
And on that blunt note, we wrap up our 5 audit report writing tips! 🙂
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