Three steps for breaking through audit report writer’s block

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Tal YampolskyWhether you write audit reports or lead the audit process, this post will be relevant to you.

Several years ago, I found myself in a new and interesting situation for me. I was sitting in front of the PC. On my left, there was a pile of audit working papers; on my right, there was an internal procedure describing the structure of an audit report. The first audit report draft took me a full week to assemble, mainly since I tried to achieve everything with a single shot—the report outline, the wording of the findings and the conclusions—while continuously reviewing the content. Add to that the fact that audit reports need to be accurate, clear and complete and you will get a recipe for a stressful process that often causes an attack of writer’s block.

Over time, I observed other professionals dealing with the same problem and making the same mistake, trying to produce the perfect draft from scratch. As a result, I came up with three simple techniques that can be used to overcome audit writer’s block for any professional who is involved in the process of audit-report writing:

  • How—Write down everything that comes into your mind without considering the structure, wording or grammar. It will be easier to review, organize and improve the draft later. The point is to keep writing without looking backward and let the words splash out onto the paper. Remember, it does not have to be perfect and comprehensive at first.
  • What—Findings are often the biggest and most crucial part of the audit report. Write the main statement, the bottom line, followed by bulleted supporting details. If there is information you need but is not available at hand, do not divert and find it. Simply make a note and keep going. When you are finished, you can go back and find the missing pieces; this stops you from being distracted from the task at hand by flitting back and forth to find information.
  • When—There is no need to pack your stuff and move to a remote island, but it is important to prevent interruptions during the writing process, even if they are very tempting. Let your coworkers know that you will be busy writing and will not be available for a certain period of time. It will prevent distractions such as office noise, telephone conversations and coworkers’ visits.

I encourage you to also develop your own techniques and stick to your own rules, but remember to always keep these three things in mind:  every audit-writing process requires realistic objectives (How), a practical approach (What) and true concentration (When).

Happy audit-report drafting!

Tal Yampolsky, CISA
Entrepreneur, Technologist and Auditor, Israel

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Published: 6/21/2012 10:53 AM

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