Writing skills have become increasingly important for accountants as their roles expand. Whether it's crafting a memo, preparing a report for executives, or developing materials for clients or colleagues, accounting professionals need to be effective writers in order to advance in their careers.
No one expects you to be the next John Grisham, but you will be asked to draft cohesive documents that clearly express your thoughts to the reader. Here are some tips for effective writing:
Start with your objective. Before you begin, determine the message you want to get across. For example, do you want to share information with a client? Do you want to persuade management to implement a new software application? Defining your objective will help guide the process and ensure you stay on track.
Get organized. Once you know your topic and goal, begin by listing the key points. Outlining your thoughts will help you arrange them logically. In addition, if you want to change the order of the ideas, it’s easier to do so at this stage than when you're in the middle of the process.
Write for your audience. Will the readers recognize accounting terminology or will they understand your argument better if it’s explained in layman’s terms? Determine the style your audience will respond to best. Use clear sentences and explain any areas with which they may be unfamiliar.
State your point quickly. Within the first couple of sentences, let the readers know the subject of your piece and how it applies to them. Professionals in all fields are taking on increasingly greater workloads, and some people may not be willing to read something if they don't immediately see how it's relevant to them. For longer reports, consider including an executive summary at the beginning.
Proofread carefully. Always check for errors before distributing anything. Use the spell-check function on your computer, but recognize that it rarely catches every error. Consider asking a colleague to review the piece and look for any mistakes you may have missed.
Keep improving. There are a number of resources available to help you, including books, websites and seminars. Also ask your manager how your writing can be more effective. And remember, as the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
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Copyright 2003 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.