A Guide to Writing in Accounting A RESOURCE FOR FRESHMAN ACCOUNTING MAJORS
Elizabeth Jones Professor Angela Sowa WRIT 1133 1|P a g e
Table of Contents Creative Commons License……………………………………………… 3 Introduction……………………………………………………………. 4-5 Chapter 1: A Review of Existing Literature………………………….. 6-11 Chapter 2: Genre Investigation……………………………………… 12-20 Chapter 3: An Interview With… …………………………………… 21-25 Chapter 4: Proposing Change……………………………………….. 26-29 Chapter 5: Conclusion………………………………………………. 30-33 Appendix A……………………………………………………………. 34 Appendix B…………………………………………………………….. 35 Works Cited…………………………………………………………… 36
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Introduction Writing in accounting is an underrated aspect in the world of business. Yes, I did just put the word writing in the same sentence as the word accounting. Styles of writing depend on the profession they pertain to, and the work done in a business setting requires a different tone, purpose and research than that of creative writing. Writing in accounting is the means for financial data and analysis to be translated between departments in the professional world. The accountant may have adequate â€œnumber-crunchingâ€? skills, but until these can be interpreted as written reports, their knowledge will not be conveyed. Writing plays such a crucial role in the profession of an accountant, and offers insight to the reporting of audits, income statements and balance sheets and additional financial work being done. Writing in accounting is underrated because most accountants are not given credit for their complete skillset and ability to write effectively in addition to being able to analyze the financial situations of a company. It is of upmost importance that accounting students are educated on the various aspects of writing that go into accounting courses and the major in general. Accounting requires such a vast array of skills that include critical thinking, mathematical logic, communication and teamwork, database and technological knowledge, and of course the ability to convey these summaries through the use of their writing skills. The writing portion of accounting is usually forgotten amidst the stereotypes and misconceptions about the profession in general. However, writing plays such a pivotal role that can
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determine the response to an accountant’s work and then future decisions in that firm. Writing in accounting becomes the reason a firm may move in a certain managerial direction, cut costs, hire more employees, provide different benefits, or alter the prices they charge. Without accounting, the financial situation of a company would not be relayed to those who need the information. Without writing in accounting, the financial situation might be misinterpreted, misunderstood or misleading. In order for writing in accounting to be effective, it needs to be clear, concise, and courteous. This will be elaborated on in future chapters, but it is a common theme to be aware of while reading this “writing-in-accounting” guide. If used appropriately, this book can be a starting point as students dive into writing research papers about accounting, business proposals, memos, reports, and responses to financial situations. If students are aware of the expectation to be clear, concise and courteous, they can get a head start on applying this concept that will be expected of them as accounting majors. This is a skill they will practice and perfect for the professional world, but is useful to know heading into the field because in most cases students will not have much prior knowledge. This book encompasses a diverse collection of chapters that pertain to writing in accounting. A review of existing literature will familiarize the readers with background knowledge, history, and existing education about the subject. It is the first chapter and essential as the learning process begins. Following is the chapter regarding the existing genre types in accounting and how genre theory is critical in understanding each specific genre’s role. This chapter fits in adequately as the reader begins to understand what writing in accounting entails and what all is covered in the major. For additional insight, an interview was completed with an undergraduate student who is knee-deep in the accounting core courses. Her experience and insight demonstrates an alternate view and additional information for incoming students. Even though this major and profession has existed for quite some time, there is always room for improvement. A proposed change is discussed in order to address the challenging
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transitions incoming students face. These chapters cumulate to form a book that is insightful, educational and informative, and give a basis as to the expectations and work done for writing in accounting.
Chapter 1: Review of Existing Literature Accounting refers to the process of recording, summarizing, analyzing and reporting financial transactions in order to reveal the monetary exchange in a given company or organization. These records become essential data as management looks to make informed decisions in the future. Financial documents, reports and statements suddenly become the catalyst for significant business changes, and directors rely on the work of accountantâ€™s to provide a clear record of where the company has been in monetary terms. If the documents are grammatically incorrect, inconclusive, unclear, or erroneous, they can be misleading and detrimental for the companyâ€™s future. In order for a firm to make executive financial decisions, they rely on the writing and insight from the bookkeeperâ€™s work. The writing in accounting must follow the rigid expectations to be clear, concise and courteous, but also strive to find a balance that allows room for critical thinking, argumentative perspective and recommendations to be stated in a way that is beneficial for the company. The differences between writing for the business world differ greatly from the writing needed to be a well understood as an accountant because a separate analysis is needed in addition to the formulation and categorization of numbers and spreadsheets. The writing done by accountants needs to be effective in order to explain the numbers and transactions to those outside the realm of accounting. Communication skills are tested thoroughly in the Certified Public Accountant exam, on the Auditing 6|P a g e
section, Regulation section, and Financial Accounting and Reporting sections. The emphasis on interpretation is becoming more prominent as technological advances decrease the time needed to gather and process information. The writing skills accountants possess provide a foundation for preparing basic notes, financial statements, occasional interdepartmental memos, project plans and proposal communications with stakeholders, and even articles in professional journals. The writing done by those in accounting demonstrate a clear understanding, thorough analysis and well-documented summary of the financial situation at hand. The goal is to be effective and to have the document relay the information necessary to make educated decisions in that given company. Effective writing is not the goal for just this profession, but is the ideal outcome for any document of a business professional. It is an essential skill to be able to convey one’s ideas distinctly and to be able to write clearly. Students need to understand the importance in accounting because written and oral communication gives the numbers “meaning, context, and focus” on a decision (Lingenfelter 1). The difference between the success and failure of a professional document can be attributed to how readers respond to the text and given information. The basic rules and methods taught in previous English courses can be applied in the business world of writing by applying slight modifications. Topic sentences provide insight into the document’s main points quickly. First person and active voice are widely used and understood in the business world. Concise and clear writing can be applied to a range of professional documents, whether it be an email, memo, project proposal, audit report or the footnotes of a financial statement. It is critical to consider the intended target audience before writing any number of documents. If the document is written with a certain purpose, then the overall message will be much more effective in regards to this specific audience (see Appendix A for example document). Any writing done in the business field should “strive for an overall tone that is confident, courteous and sincere” (Ober 3). This implies that the writer is
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knowledgeable about the purpose of the document being created. This level of understanding demonstrates a complete consideration of all factors being included, from the intended audience to the tone to the purpose of the document, which all accumulates to enhance the effectiveness of the piece. Confidence is key, and demonstrates a strength in analysis as well as helps to establish credibility. A confident tone will have a “persuasive effect on your audience,” and this will generally lead readers to be more “inclined to accept your position” (Driscoll 2). To attain an aura of confidence in any field of writing, the research must be carefully prepared and the writer knowledgeable about the material that is going to be depicted. For an accountant, the analysis should be accompanied by the well-outlined written reports and correct documentation of the financial transactions. This activation of credibility aids in the presentation of information which contributes to appeals to ethos; consequently, this then increases the rhetorical effectiveness of the document being written overall. Confidence is an admirable quality, and individuals who can convey confidence in their writing may be hired more quickly because of their sound abilities. In regards to the finished product, anyone from the accountant’s immediate supervisor, colleague, or boss is relying on the document to be clear and correct, and demonstrate a thorough understanding and analysis of the report at hand. The quality and effectiveness of the writing done will affect the scale at which the intended message is understood. If the writing in accounting is aimed at the appropriate target audience, it will accomplish its desired effect and purpose in the field. There is a range of writing styles done in accounting, but in the case of report writing, these finished documents should be “complete, accurate, objective, convincing and as clear and concise as the subject permits” (Gray). Mastering and understanding these concepts can be challenging. Seeing common articles online or reading the newspaper can provide insight as good examples of clearly presented information, because the opening paragraphs generally have effective writing techniques, cause and effect
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statements and are short overall to keep readers’ attention. These are aspects mirrored in writing done for accounting. In most brief articles, the extra details have been removed because these details can detract from a report’s overall purpose and conceal or hinder response to the intended message. Confusion from extraneous detail can discourage those who read newspapers, and the same can be said for firms reading financial reports bogged down with unnecessary information. An analysis that is explained succinctly can be the most effective in terms of writing for accounting due to its brevity. Writing in accounting all has the same style and tone, but there is a multitude of reports and documentation in the field. The written and oral statements produced from accountants deliver a focus, meaning and context for a decision in a professional business setting. The written documents expected from an accountant need to be conveyed in an easily understood fashion. Reports that demonstrate a confident tone tend to be reciprocated well, and can build goodwill for the accountant doing the bookkeeping. Emphasis and subordination in certain aspects of the final reports can assist the target audience in understanding the concepts being demonstrated. The reports can be used for assistance as a company improves its financial situation and adjusts the budget for the future years. As accounts are recorded, the footnotes required in the journal need to be simple and displayed in a clear manner. If clients need to be contacted, the letters written need to be done so that the individual would be able to understand the reports that the accountant is working through. Strong communication and writing skills are necessary if an accountant wants to take advantage of the future market opportunities by being able to express information effectively and efficiently. Integral information may be looked over if the accounts are not portrayed in a manner that is easily understood. Simply stated, “communication skills are the basic skills” that accountants need in order to succeed in their profession (Liu 2). The accountant must have a solid writing background to relay the information effectively in the reports and statements. The clarity and conciseness of the writing style
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need to be evident. Concrete wording is the foundation for a simple piece that utilizes specific business jargon. Technological terms are utilized with the intent to give precision to this clear writing style, common terms being accrual, deferred income taxes and amortization to name a few. The specificity required in a piece of business writing complements the tone and layout that has already been set by the existing format and expectations. Ambiguous and unclear writing can confuse readers and deter from understanding the whole sense of the piece; consequently, the structure and way of communicating in accounting writing must follow the guidelines already established and continue adding to this well-known configuration. Even the formatting—headings, margins, font, pagination—can assist in the quest to produce a professional and clear report. Most reports will have a format to follow and the final product should mirror that expectation visually as well as with the content it displays. In general, the report should be “follow a specific methodology” which contributes to the readability and intended message of the piece (Duke and Coffman 217). The overall purpose of a report or audit is achieved when the accountant follows the structure advised for that piece. A short transmittal document includes the important information like the title and purpose of the report. It is like an abstract, but has more concise phrasing and provides a summary of the report’s main idea in a few sentences. Followed is a title page, table of contents, list of potential illustrations, summary section, introduction, body of report, conclusion, optional appendixes, and finally notes and bibliography. All components provide a thorough evaluation of the transactions and analyzing the accounting problem; thus, accounting principles are applied to any given situation. The organization of the report must be coherent and presented accurately, abiding by the expectations of the professor or workplace so that the content is displayed clearly and concisely (see Appendix A for an example).
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The purpose of writing in the accounting field is to appeal to the reader, whether that be the client, other departments in the firm, or even a group of managers depending on the specific document being produced. Auditing reports deal specifically with auditing circumstances, such as an unqualified report on comparative financial statements. There are specific audit standards to abide by as the accountant writes out the reports in a responsible way. Accountants need to use an organized approach, “take the time to craft a clear, coherent document” which includes the use of headings, topic sentences and active voice in order to be effective and understood in these reports (Lynch and Golen 7). Other reports can have descriptions like an accountant’s report, auditor’s report, opinion, report and opinion, report of independent public accountants, depending on the intended purpose. The structure will vary for the various types of reports, which can change the way the reader responds to these professional documents. However, clarity, completeness and form for the most part will remain constant as the balance sheets and transactions are to be expressed unanimously across the board in a way all departments in a firm would understand (refer to Appendix A for an Annual Report example). Reports for management, credit purposes, prospective purchasers, and stockholders have a sense of uniformity and include all of the same components on the various balance sheets, income and surplus statements, consolidated statements and miscellaneous statements. The cumulative report and documentation of the financial situation create evidence for the bookkeeper’s understanding and portrayal of the account. If done effectively this can lead to executive business decisions and managerial acknowledgment in response to the well documented financial report. Formulating an argument about the financial situation at hand is something that will be expected of the accountant. Recommending a course of action for the firm or clients is in the job description of an accountant; thus, being able to think critically, identify key issues, acknowledge all sides of the argument, and use authoritative sources to research are all skills necessary in the field. Being able to weigh evidence for both sides and then draw a conclusion and be able to communicate that effectively 11 | P a g e
is important in the business world. The overall understanding of a financial report, audit statement, business document, report or memo depends on the conciseness, clarity and brevity of the piece and this will become clearer in the following chapters. It will be easy to understand why it is the accountantâ€™s duty to provide notes and an analysis that depicts the financial transactions in a way that is clearly understood for any specific target audience.
Chapter 2: Genre Investigation Introduction Writing for accounting purposes has to be thorough in analysis, but brief in summaryâ€Ś So how do students and professionals convey a balance of this information in the business world? In the case of accounting, multiple genres are utilized in the process of providing analysis and communication for displaying the work that has been completed. The various genres have the cumulative ability to convey accountants work, because without different genres, certain aspects of accounting would be left out. Due to the transition in accounting from the classroom to professional business world, an array of genreâ€™s will be analyzed in order to fully comprehend their importance in translating the similarities, social action and communication influence that specific genre is able to portray.
A Look at Genre Theory Genre refers to characterization based on similarities in form, style or subject matter and thus the categorization based on these parallels. These connections create a means to further investigate into the modes and mediums that a certain area or field can elaborate throughout. Genre identification is essential in the process of providing effective communication. Different mediums of genre analysis 12 | P a g e
offer a holistic approach to looking at the subject matter and the social action it can provide. This analytic process recognizes that most subjects are complex and have a depth to them that is hard to infiltrate without proper diagnostic tools. A cumulative look at all mediums aid in the understanding and further knowledge of the situation and subject. In the case of accounting, genre identification is crucial in this area because of the typecast that comes with this nature of work. The duties and expectations of accounting majors and those working in the field vary greatly and depend intently on the writing types that are produced on any given day. The variety of skills required of an accountant in regards to writing can be attributed to the specific requirements of each accounting genre. Multiple genres are necessary to expand upon in order to get a thorough analysis the lens genres provide for readers. Genre investigation for writing done in accounting aids with our ability to discern why each genre has that intended purpose for creation. Specific to accounting, syllabi, reports, business memos, financial statements and journals each play a unique, yet essential role in the process of translating financial data into understandable information.
The Classroom Syllabus In sequential order, the first genre to discuss is a classroom syllabus. This document offers information from the professor to student in an organized, systematical and predictable layout. With clues drawn from background knowledge, most students expect a description of the course, quarter outline of due dates, expectations from the professor, the grading scale, and other aspects of this nature (see Appendix B for an example Accounting syllabus). These features provide an overview—almost an abstract—of the course and what to begin working towards. Specific to accounting, the course syllabus has multiple social actions depending on interpretation. It should and most likely will explain expectations, motives for learning, typified features as well as a power stance to establish the professor’s credibility. The professor should exhibit their authority and power as an instructor of the
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material in the syllabus, outlining procedures and methods that need to be conveyed to students before assignments and grading begins. This input is essential for students to understand the writing they will need to produce, the caliber of work ethic that is required to be successful. A syllabus is more effective than a spoken lecture about the expectations in class because it offers a concrete example and outline for the prospective work ethic and commitment necessary to be successful as well as a reference to check back on. Most syllabi in the classroom have similar formats and layouts, especially those produced in a business school with structured documentation of course descriptions. This genre draws reference from those other documents, and provides a mirrored image and recognizable format to inform the students of the tasks ahead. Generally speaking, this genre is straightforward and does not differentiate between accounting courses. The brief and organized document can be compared across the board to other syllabi and more often than not, they will be visually and rhetorically similar. Certain professors have specific roles in class and expectations of the writing requirements that differentiate in practice, but not in overall theory. Organized and structured information is not solely a concept formed for accounting syllabi, but can be found across a multitude of majors and concentrations. This genre is meant to give an overview of the expectations and course outline, and students of all academic majors and interests are aware and knowledgeable towards the purpose of these pre-course documents.
Written Reports As students continue their education and become more involved in the accounting core, various formal documents will be produced in the classroom. These written reports will translate to professional memos in the future, but while at school they act as an introduction to formal documentation and analysis of financial records. Student produced reports are necessary in the learning and full understanding of what accounting entails; thus, learning the process of how to achieve this analysis of 14 | P a g e
financial information is fundamental in providing a foundation of accounting knowledge to the business student. Formal documents written for the professor generally are done to show understanding of the reading, analysis of the financial report, or another circumstance with the intended audience being the professor. Written reports have various typified features, antecedents, motives and improvisation, which cumulates to form a unique social action that only these documents provide. The typified features of a professional document include the characterization of professional tone, systematical format and layout, condensed information and a concise and brief end product. These exemplify the factors needed to write a complete formal report in the classroom, and one that would be expected by any given professor in the accounting department. These papers are visual credibility to prove the student is conversant, professional and has previous knowledge about the subject in which they are writing about. Antecedents must be displayed in order for the student to thoroughly convey the information to higher management. The motive behind writing these reports for class is to achieve a high grade that measures your understanding and commitment to the subject matter. Additionally, these thought out and organized pieces display research and investment into the class and for the information that the professor is lecturing on. In order for these pieces to be successful, they must convey the information in a way that parallels the documents produced in the work place (see Appendix A for a professional Annual Report example). They must be written in a clear, concise and professional matter that explores the information at hand without too much flowery language that hinders the overall purpose. An excess amount of adjectives deters the reader from understanding the main points of the financial document or accountantâ€™s purpose for writing. Expectations for written reports should have been outlined in the syllabus, and their format articulated by the professor. This is a genre with little space to maneuver or
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improvise because the format of the paper is organized and courteous, displayed so with an active voice and interest in the subject. Appeals to logos as well as ethos are commonly made in writing accounting reports in the classroom. The author wants to make sense in the piece and connect concepts in a way that makes sense logically. Simultaneously, he or she should be striving to establish credibility as a writer. Expressing a deeper understanding of the subject is crucial in providing a well thought out piece that conveys examples, facts and consideration of the prompt and overall purpose. The author, and in this case the student, holds the power in this genre, but only if he or she abides by the writing rules of the business classroom, and adheres to professional and concise writing styles that enhance their influence in accounting classes. If the basic steps are followed for these courses, students have the ability to be powerful writers in their accounting classes. Some students canâ€™t break the mold of attempting to create appeals to pathos or use of figure of speech in literature and deter from the professional documents purpose of being written. With inappropriate use of these writing techniques creates an inefficient and insufficient piece that does not convey the accounting principles and written report that it normally should. Students need to transition their writing skills so that they are prepared for the professional work place.
The Business Memo As students graduate and leave the classroom, their accounting skills begin to be applied, not just understood. In the work world, employees quickly transition from a role of studying to a role of completing financial analysis, audit statements, documentation of reports, and so on. The accounting basics learned in school are now applied in the professional world. Expectations that back these completed papers are not the same expectations one would find in a professional accounting position. Something as simple as a business memo now has increased significance in the overall functioning of the 16 | P a g e
company. The conciseness and brevity of business memos are essential in the efficient and reliable transformation of information in an accounting firm or business. These individual business memos assist in the conveyance of data and throughout the professional workplace. Business memos do not necessarily have specific intentions, but the receiver of the memo has an expectation to get useful information or a task from this piece of writing. Business memos also have unique breaking that affects the structure and interpretation of the information being translated. They may exhibit bullet points, fragmented sentences and random notes that must be categorized and relayed in a way that is efficient for the workplace. Many memos are the product of improvisation and made up in a timely manner in order to quickly provide useful data around the office. Memos convey a problem and usually have a means to solve the problem, and improvisation is a key portion in order to tackle the situation. A memo is easier and faster to complete than an entire document or proposal, so they are efficient and resourceful when used correctly. When memos are written incorrectly, they can cause commotion, confusion or chaos in the office. Communication is everything among coworkers, and when these barriers are put up due to ineffective use of memo writing, this main aspect of genre identification cannot be interpreted correctly as it should. Accountants are busy and have many tasks to complete during the day, so a concise memo that is efficient and informative will help the office run smoothly.
Financial Statements Beyond the basics of a memo are the in depth documentation of financial analytics. When accountants complete a report, this produces an overall look at the material that was assessed, processed and understood. Transactions and bills are among the few components that accountants focus on, and they can be recorded through financial statements, reports and documents. Financial statements include writing that is clear, confident and concise, which are all components of effective 17 | P a g e
writing in accounting. They are professional pieces that convey an understanding of the material and give management, other department or client the information regarding the financial situation being assessed. There is the expectation that the analysis of financial information is thorough, but financial reports should be brief once written out and given to the intended audience. The audience has the expectation to be informed, and if correctly written this professional piece will contribute to a further understanding and knowledge of the accountantâ€™s work. In order for a financial document to be efficient, it must be written with the motive of being informative. The accountants job is to do the number crunching and relay these transactions in a way that the client or reader will understand. This involves being courteous, organized and up to date with the situation of the intended audience. Management relies on the analysis produced by the accountant for the information they need, and if well written, the financial report can bring forth this information in a clear format. A financial report has the ability to be persuasive, pivotal and essential for the functioning of a firm. A well written financial report can lead management to make certain decisions that affect the companyâ€™s direction and decisions. If the financial report is not written well then a company may misunderstand and make decisions that poorly affect the company and their financial goals. The financial document is a pivotal piece in the professional world, and reveals insight to the transactions and credits and debits the company has done. This is a genre that gets attention because of the communication liaison it acts as. Identifying this mode of information transfer is crucial in understanding the reasons for producing such clear, concise and professional financial reports for accounting.
Professional Journals If an account were to progress even higher they may have the opportunity to continue research and further their understanding of the accounting world, develop a thesis, and then provide an in depth 18 | P a g e
piece with insight into their perspective, ideas or opinions. This would be called a journal, and would be published for the purpose of displaying a higher level of knowledge into a specific component of accounting. Scholarly journals can be cited and used in additional research which continues the enhancement of knowledge in the profession of accounting. Without journals and other published works, students would not be able to research and learn as they do, understand the material that is accessible or have obtain some of the information that is available in class. Journals for accounting do not have a specific format, but all communicate critical aspects of accounting that cumulate to present a deep understanding of the subject matter. This type of writing can create powerful situations that extend the credibility of the writer as an accountant. This dual role presents the opportunity for expansion in the profession because of the expectations that follow the decision to take the accounting skills and then produce a journal with that material and knowledge. This re-inscription as a social action is pivotal in creating different perspectives and insight into areas of accounting that may be complex and difficult to understand after reading just one mode. It is a process between author and material, and for accounting, must be conveyed in a fashion that both accounting students, professors and those in the field would understand. Journals are a genre because they are written with the intent of being published. Financial records are kept on file and are permanent as well, but journals are concrete examples available to the public about aspects of a firm or business. They are a physical analysis that can last beyond that yearâ€™s tax date. Journals are written with the goal to be published, and this formal communication is necessary for the lasting impact the information can have. The expectations that come with writing a journal include being descriptive, more so than a financial document written in the work place. A journal can describe an idea or concept, and not just an analysis of that time period transactions or financial report. Writing for an accounting journal will generally not have flowery language and a surplus of adjectives,
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but will be more descriptive than a typical written document produced by an accountant. The journal provides an expectation of authority and intelligence because readers trust that the author of a published piece is well researched and accepted in the field, so their word is taken as a credible and reliable source. This genre presents a means for formal communication from author to reader in a way that reveals accounting processes in a less professional and more educational mode.
In Conclusion Genres are characterized by the similarities in form, style or focus that they convey. These connections are the ones that are important in analyzing a specific subject matter. The cumulative analysis of the different modes of genres for one subject creates an investigation that leads to a further understanding of overall purpose and direction. The genres specific to accounting demonstrate a way of communicating throughout the lifespan of an accountant, from the classroom to the office. In accounting, the array of genres invoke separate social actions, means of communication and similarities between the different ways of writing in the accounting field. All documents have a style that is clear, concise and confident, but the formats and purpose differ greatly, which is why genre investigation becomes so essential in finding the analytical lens to look at writing in accounting through. Genre investigation is a concept students must be able to wrap their heads around when learning about the different areas of accounting and what is expected in each setting. This variety in skill will be reiterated in the next chapter as we have the opportunity to hear from one undergraduate student with accounting class experience.
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Chapter 3: An Interview Withâ€Ś Writing in accounting is influential, professional and critical in both the educational and professional levels. It has the power to sway business decisions, impact budget and spending, as well as impact the overall progress and the direction a firm chooses to go. The effectiveness of the writing is dependent upon the accountantâ€™s ability to summarize and report the transactions and financial statements. The ability to clearly express oneself in written form is not innate; consequently, time and determination is necessary to cultivate the skill set needed to be an effective writer in the business world. Specific to accounting, this requires the ability to write in a clear, concise and courteous manner, having the patience to transform from traditional writing about literature, as well as being versatile in writing an array of business documents and papers. Rachel Meek is the epitome of a hard working student, aware of the time and effort it takes to work towards being successful as a writer in the accounting major. Her work ethic and passion for her major are evident, and she delivers helpful insight into the unknown world of accounting writing. I had the chance to sit down with Rachel to learn more about her choice in major and future career, what it
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takes to write effectively while in these accounting classes, and the strategies she used to be efficacious during the transformation of her writing skill set. Most students enter college with foundations in writing derived from high school English classes. These classes have units that cover poetry, Shakespeare’s plays, the uses of figurative language and other literary devices that together, are the complete opposite than what is expected in professional business writing. One of the challenges that accountant’s face in their writing is mentally acknowledging the difference in previous writing experience and fail to prepare for this transition for what is expected and what should be produced. Rachel took both Advanced Placement Language and Composition and Advanced Placement Literature and Composition during high school, as well as the required courses at the University of Denver—WRIT 1122 and WRIT 1133. She noted that the “business style is a lot different” than any she had completed previously. These classes focus on appeals to rhetorical devices, “flowery language,” and how to structure an essay to best describe and articulate certain themes and motifs. In her accounting writing, Rachel is writing to mimic real life business situations. These practice scenarios are steps necessary to take in order to prepare writing memos, financial documents and reports. Some insight and advice Rachel shared with me about this transition was that keeping an open mind in learning this new style and format of writing is important. She talks about how she had been “clinging to descriptive writing, lots of adjectives, long sentences, making it flow… how I had written in literature.” But she stressed that this is not how you are supposed to write for accounting, it is supposed to be concise, to the point and clear. This means using as few adjectives as possible, writing in a courteous tone and manner and to remember to whom you are writing in order to produce an effective and meaningful piece. The writing done to please literary audiences is completely different than the process of writing for accounting and financial circumstances. Rachel says she wasn’t as prepared as she would have liked
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to have been for the transition, and describes it as a “step by step process.” This evolution of writing skills is a something that continues to grow for each accounting student, because there is never a defined ending to this process. Accounting students would do well to follow Rachel’s example, as she states her accounting writing is “always something I can improve on each time I write.” Focusing on more efficiently conveying ideas in a concise format and getting straight to the point has assisted Rachel in this shift of writing styles and undertaking in learning. Transitionally, this requires an understanding of the purpose and means of writing in the business world, as well as the mental acknowledgement to carry out this conversion. One trend kept appearing during the conversation, and Rachel mentioned it on multiple occasions. This major point in accounting writing is having the ability to convey ideas in a clear, concise and courteous manner—also known as “The Three C’s,” referenced by multiple professors in the accounting department. It is the accountant’s job to convey concepts in a way that is clear and evident to the reader, whether that target audience be a professor or professional. The document should be concise and to the point. Rachel acknowledged that individuals in the business world are extremely busy, so if they get a memo they will want to “read it quickly and get the information.” Brevity is key in explaining ideas quickly and efficiently, and is a strategy in writing that is necessary to keep communication and proposals circulating. Writing in a courteous tone is crucial in the business world. Every written document is going to another individual, and if it is someone higher in the business the writing should be “giving suggestions rather than demands” according to Rachel. These three concepts cumulate to provide a framework of writing in the accounting world. Together, the effectiveness of memos, syllabi, cover letters, research papers, financial reports, journals, and other professional documents depends on the writer’s ability to implement “The Three C’s.” The idea behind these fundamental writing processes is that they cover multiple aspects of writing in accounting, including the target audience, purpose, and tone, all of which are essential to establish before producing a successful 23 | P a g e
piece. Professors look for and grade based on these requirements, while professionals rely on the assumption that students should have an existing presence of utilizing this concept in their writing. Each aspect of writing in accounting has a fundamental purpose that is essential in the accounting system as well as the full functionality of the business or firm. With this comes the expectation that the accountant can successfully produce and convey a variety of skills that become required with the declaration of an accounting major. In the accounting core thus far, Rachel has started to write documents like practice cover letters. These are helpful as students practice producing informational pieces that will aid in jump-starting their careers and job placement upon graduation. A major focus in her classes currently is writing memos. Typically they are written to pretend managers answering questions by combining accounting research and then give the company recommendations. This process is one accounting students must master in order to effectively translate information to future managers. These situations that are given from a textbook are meant to propose a problem the student has to solve and then figure out the answer. Then the student must be able to put the answer into words and that someone else would understand and grasp. The practice in the classroom is essential in preparing accounting students with this skillset and writing ability. Another assignment asked of accounting students is to write research papers about accounting principles. These range in topic, but are all formal documents, informative based on their subject, and are well-investigated. The accounting student must be well studied and thoroughly investigative in the process of identifying and analyzing accounting principles. Understanding these concepts helps provide a foundation for any future accounting education and classes, so the student becomes credible and knowledgeable in the field. Much of the research is done individually, whether in books, online, or with a professor. Some of the work for research papers can be done excel and other financial programs in order to provide credentials and data for the research paper. One specific paper that Rachel wrote was
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about analyzing the different accounting processes, and determining which one was most efficient. She utilized sources like academic writing, news articles, textbooks, journals and other hard sources in order to bring it together. Understanding the audience that one is writing for is crucial as different reports and documents are produced from accounting students. This shift in audience and purpose of writing must be grasped in order for the student or professional to produce an effective and correct piece. As students, individuals write to the professor, in the style that would please them for the grade. With the transition to the real world, individuals will write financial documents for managers, clients, coworkers, or anyone else in the business realm. Some of these potential situations are given in class, and mimic who should be written towards. Accountants are expected to be able to produce a variety of texts, financial documents, and reports. Their flexibility and ability to adapt determines their effectiveness as an accountant, with their writing determining how they convey the financial situation to the audience. A variation in writing skillset is necessary as accountants write to be clear, concise and courteous. Rachel was “shocked” when they started writing in the accounting core because of the assortment of writing pieces she was generating. These various documents need to be mastered as students prepare for different areas within accounting—whether that be tax work, audit work, or client specific. Accountants produce writing that is influential and essential for the managerial decisions and overall functioning of a business. The quality of the writing completed can alter the impact it has for a firm or for a client. Students like Rachel Meek offer insight as to how this caliber and style of writing can be produced in the classroom and how these expectations prepare students for the professional world. Executive decisions are based upon the effectiveness of the writing and the accountant’s ability to effectively summarize, analyze and report the given financial situation. Individuals—like Rachel Meek— 25 | P a g e
that focus on writing in a clear, concise and courteous manner, are adaptive in their transition of writing style and become versatile in the documents they can produce are students that succeed. These overall themes identified by Rachel in our interview exhibit major concepts necessary to understand as incoming students continue to learn about writing in accounting through this major book.
Chapter 4: Proposing Change The misconceptions that accompany the word â€œAccountingâ€? are prevalent and widespread. One might picture a number-crunching mathematician that uses analytics to regurgitate financial information in the form of balance sheets and income statements. However, this could not be more incorrect. While yes, numbers are involved, they are not the sole catalyst for work of the accountant. Accountants rely on writing skills to convey their financial analysis and documents, and in doing so, are continually chipping away at the uninformed and ignorant stereotypes and misconceptions that convoy this field. The degree and quality of these writing skills should be a much larger focus during the educational experience as an accounting major because of the unrecognized importance they have. The writing and analysis done by accountants can and should be recognized in the stability and maintenance of a company, because this information is essential in the firmâ€™s continued success. If students want to be successful in the accounting field, they need to have access to resources where the writing done in business is the main focus; consequently, the university should hire an older student from the business school to work in the writing center.
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In order for writing in business classes to improve, strategies and resources have to be put in place so that students can succeed at an efficient, more accelerated rate. Writing in a professional tone for an audience that is above you managerially speaking can be intimidating and hard to master for those entering the field. Accounting students continually face the challenge of changing previous writing habits to create documents with specific expectations and requirements. If an upperclassmen or graduate student from Daniels School of Business is allotted certain time in the writing center, students with papers specific to business can receive the help and guidance they need to overcome this transition. Especially for accounting students, where the purpose, style, and expectations of the papers are so unique, and this personal assistance can ease the transition and provide an easy solution to a prevalent issue. Future decisions and managerial decisions can be based off of the interpretation of the companyâ€™s budget, balance sheets, income statements and financial reports. These monumental decisions carry weight throughout the company, affecting all aspects of the corporation, employees and stakeholders. The purpose of accounting systems is to relay transactions, purchases and profits, and understanding this process as it relates to the effect on managerial decisions is essential in comprehending the functioning of a business. When students can better phrase accounting memos, financial documents and reports, the purpose of the piece in the accounting system will be better interpreted and understood. This guidance will give quality practice to individuals in the field, and set them up for future success because of the direct consultation they have received in the accessible writing center. The solution is simple, Daniels can set aside a certain portion of the Daniels budget, equivalent to about three to five work study positions in the business school in order to hire older students with a knack for professional writing. With multiple students on payroll for this position, they will offer a plethora of times during the week as far as availability goes, and multiple perspectives and insight for the business documents being written by underclassmen. These â€œbusiness-writing-expertsâ€? become 27 | P a g e
guides, mentors and resources as the students transition into business classes. The next step is making sure that incoming students are aware of this improved resource on campus. Most students quickly realize the emphasis on writing for accounting as they enter into these classes and soon acknowledge and understand its importance in this business world. This surge of accounting reliability stems from students understanding its power in the workforce, professors relaying this information effectively and throughout courses and units learned, and professionals utilizing this aspect of the business world and realizing that writing in accounting is essential to take into account. With this increased importance on writing in accounting comes the dire need for individuals in the writing center to provide tips and tricks, skills and expertise in this niche area. Some might argue that those already employed by the University Writing Center may already have enough expertise to cover business proposals and documents as well. They are experts in the field and have the ability to adapt to a specific topic and prompt. They can also cater to the professors expectations as given by the syllabus or grading rubric. By choosing to rely on these individuals, the writing center can stay functioning the way it is now and with those who know the ins and outs and routine of the center and how to best assist students with writing questions. However, implementing and integrating business students in the writing center is the best solution for combating the transition from literature writing to professional writing in the early stages of an accounting majorâ€™s academic journey. Adding a business major to the writing center is a feasible, simple change that can ease the pressures of this specific writing in college and provide a resource so that studentâ€™s writing in business courses become that much stronger in a much more time efficient fashion. Future companies need their employees to convey ideas effectively and analyzing their transactions, financial documents and reports to meet certain criteria. Students are adequately learning the techniques and skillset necessary to be successful in the accounting field, but if they can do so under
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the watchful eye of a business writer, can develop these skills earlier in order to perfect and routinely perform before going into the “real world”. Accountants fall under the stereotype of a uniform “number-crunching” employee, with limited knowledge outside of the financial analysis. However, writing plays a critical role in the professional role, and if this writing is as clear, concise and courteous as possible, credit can be given to these versatile accounting individuals for the variety of work that they complete, especially that done outside of the numerical genre. Accounting is an essential part of any company if they wish to be successful in budgeting and tracking finances, maintain records and continue to make choices to impact the company in a positive way. With social media and technological innovation on an exponential increase in the eyes of consumers, is it simple for individuals to focus on the marketing aspects of a product or service. However, maintaining focus on the value of accounting and the writing done therein, is crucial for the company to continue to make wise choices and have enough money to appropriately market to consumers. Students learn about the balance and cohesion of the departments and understand that a cumulative of aspects of business comprise a successful, functioning firm. The writing in accounting helps convey this importance. If this can be recognized and addressed by the use of a student in the writing center, a better balance will be attained and the future employees can offer defined skills that contribute to the company because of the talents established in the early stages of business learning and writing. Professors are instructors as well as resources for students as they become acclimated to writing the accounting context and genre. Textbooks, academic journals and financial statements also are examples for outside knowledge and provide a basis as to how to write in the field. In order to get personal, in-depth insight and expertise to the style of writing and avoid a challenging transition, a business student in the writing center would provide the perception and tools necessary to succeed at a
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much faster rate. They are accessible, relatable and know exactly the context accounting students are writing for. It would be feasible for the University to implement and would only change the dynamic of the writing center slightly in the grand scheme of its functioning, and generating student interest would not be an issue. Accounting is much more than just crunching numbers, and the variety of skills expected of these students stems from their ability to convey ideas via the writing they produce. This writing needs to be clear, concise and courteous, and the faster a student can start to attain this type of writing, the faster they will succeed in accounting courses and in the business school in general. Transitioning may be challenging, but with additional feedback, business students can start to see progress and results. Accounting students will quickly make the connection between the quality of their writing and the importance this has for future managerial decisions.
Chapter 5: Conclusion Accounting is a process that requires systematic and comprehensive recording of a client’s financial transactions. This includes analyzing, summarizing and reporting these finances, which greatly depends on the effectiveness of the writing done by the accountant. The writing completed by the professional includes a summary of the company’s operations, financial status and position, transactions completed and cash flows over a given period. A company relies on the relevance and conciseness of these documents to move ahead and make future decisions for the success of the business. It is essential for a prospective accountant to understand the credentials, qualifications and expectations of the standards of writing in accounting. The writing done in this field conveys information crucial to the future of the company in a financial sense, and has a greater importance than most think. Writing in the accounting world—and the business world in general—is vastly different than what is expected of students prior to reaching courses in pursuit of a college degree. Writing for business courses requires the individual to convey ideas without elaboration, or the “fluff” that is 30 | P a g e
encouraged in most literature and composition classes. This transition can be difficult, but with a conscious effort to manipulate current writing techniques a student can accomplish this and gear their writing specifically towards business purposes. It is a transition that is necessary to master in order to effectively convey financial analysis and documentation for firms and companies. An accountantâ€™s financial work and knowledge is exhibited to other individuals through the writing and summary of the financial situation. The writing completed is a measure of the caliber of work done with the finances and transactions, therefore; it is crucial to successfully transition to this style of writing in the business world in order to inform clients or managers of the work being done. The main theme that is consistent across the different mediums in accounting writing is that the final product must be clear, concise and courteous. Pieces should effectively relay their purpose to readers both familiar with business terms and those outside the field. Anyone should be able to understand the summary of a financial document or report because overall, it should be clear in its conveyance of the subject. A piece should be relatively short and brief in description. There is not a pressing need to go into details while writing these types of documents, and the shorter the better. This will keep readers attention to the main points, and allow them the ability to not get distracted by unnecessary sentences, flowery language or extra analysis. And finally, the pieces should have a tone of professionalism and courteousness. This demonstrates the maturity of the accountant and their writing as well as their ability to deliver the information in a way that can be presented to higher management or clients or professors. Typically this aspect of writing for accounting is hard to master, but is vital as the student transitions from a classroom environment to a professional workplace. It is evident that a much larger thought process is required for writing in accounting than most anticipate. Accounting encompasses much more than just the typical number crunching, mathematical abilities that are stereotypical in the profession. A wide range of skills are expected to be had by the
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accountant. They must be able to produce a variety of documents, including financial statements, audit reports, and business memos. This is all prepared for in the classroom at the undergraduate and graduate level. Professors assist in this application of skills so that the students are adequately equipped and can contribute to the work world upon graduation. A rigorous program expects much from the accounting students, and the writing must be up to standard in order to be effective. The transition of writing expectations is abrupt. This is something that can be enhanced in the classroom setting, especially as students enter the introductory business classes that suddenly demand professional writing from previous—and sometimes solely—creative writers in the literature context. The alteration of writing strategies can be practiced with the useful task of preparing research papers. With this evolution of writing skills and transition to business writing skills, this assists in getting rid of the stereotype that accompanies the term “accounting.” Once the writing in accounting is viewed as essential and crucial in the business world by all employees and shareholders, the profession of accounting begins to be acknowledged as encompassing a range of duties. It is important for students to realize this concept before making career decisions in the business world. Accounting is not solely about computing numbers. With the advances in technology and processes, the number analysis can be done by programs like Microsoft Excel. The efficiency of accountants depends on their ability to relay this information to managers, clients, or in the case of students, to professors. An individual’s ability to give this information clearly, concisely, and in a courteous manner are the accountant’s that will be successful in this day and age of technologic advance. They are flexible, versatile and knowledgeable, and this is due to the impact writing in accounting can have and its importance for company’s managerial decisions and in the process of obtaining financial information.
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So in conclusion, be confident in your ability to go out and be able to write effectively in the accounting world. Here in this book are the fundamentals and basics to get started on this journey of learning and understanding writing in accounting. Use the research done by others for information, reach out to other students and professors and professionals in the field for additional guidance, and always think critically in the field. It is an aspect in the business world that needs strong employees and hard workers to analyze the financial documents. Using your writing skills effectively can impact a company you might work for in the future, or a clientâ€™s decisions based on the records you give him or her. Now that the expectations, misconceptions and qualifications are laid out in these series of chapters, students can be more educated and knowledgeable about the field of accounting and what their future profession will require of them. By writing in a clear, concise and courteous manner with defined purpose and goals, accountants can convey the necessary information to management, directors, clients, fellow students or professors with their extensive array of skills.
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Liu, Bosi. "Why Good Writing Skills are Important for Success in the Accounting Profession." PSE Buffalo. Pi Sigma Epsilon, 5 Apr. 2012. Web. Apr. 2014 Lynch, David H., and Steven Golen. "10 Steps to Writing Clear Documents." The Internal Auditor 60.1 (2003): 53-7. ProQuest. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. McKay, Melanie, and Elizabeth Rosa. The Accountant's Guide to Professional Communication: Writing and Speaking the Language of Accountancy. Fort Worth: Dryden, Harcourt College, 2000. Print. Ober, Scott. Contemporary Business Communication. 2nd Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995. "Online CPA." American CPE. CPE Sponsors, n.d. Web. May 2014. Palen, Jennie M. Report Writing for Accountants. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1955. Print.
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