6 Tips for Internal Audit Report Writing
Some people will say that an internal audit report is meant to communicate what an audit found or make recommendations for improvement. However, the ultimate goal of an internal audit report is to persuade readers to take action. The writing style of an internal audit report can make a big difference in persuading readers to take complete and timely corrective action. The audit report’s content informs readers, but the writing style is what motives them to act. Below are some tips to help you during the internal audit report writing process so that you can make an impact and inspire action.
Tip #1: Keep Your Audit Report Short
During audit report writing, you need to keep your readers in mind. If your internal audit report contains too much information, it will overwhelm your readers. They will not want to read the report in its entirety, and your words will have less of an impact. Any words, sentences, or ideas that do not directly support your point should be removed. A shorter, more direct audit report will yield the most desired results and will be much more likely to persuade readers to take the correct action.
Tip #2: Keep Your Audit Report Simple
Big, complicated words may seem like a good idea because they can make you look like an expert on a subject, but they don’t have a place in internal audit reports. The most impactful audit reports express big ideas with small words. To be the most persuasive, audit report writing should use direct, clear, and familiar language. This isn’t to say that you should dumb down your reports, but you should use clear language that your readers will be able to easily understand. Avoid excessive jargon or legalese. The goal of an internal audit report is not to sound impressive but rather is to persuade. Plain language is more effective at selling ideas and is more likely to be read, understood, and heeded in less time.
Tip #3: Make Your Best Ideas Shine
The purpose of an internal audit report is to inspire action from busy executives. In order to do this, these audit reports should be easy to read and absorb. Keeping audit reports short and simple helps to achieve this, but it’s also crucial that you organize your reports in a way that makes your most important ideas shine. Using headings, subheadings, and call-out boxes in your audit report writing can draw attention to the most important points. You can also use tables, charts, examples, color, and pictures to help clarify and emphasize important information. Adding an executive summary, table of contents, or index can help your readers find essential information in the audit report. An executive summary should definitely be used if your report is lengthy. Because different stakeholders have different needs and care about different information, it is crucial to find ways when writing audit reports to help each reader find the specific information they need.
Tip #4: Pay Attention to Details
Grammar is just as important in audit report writing as it is in all other forms of professional writing. You want readers to see your audit report as something that should be taken seriously. If your internal audit report contains poor grammar, misspelled words, or improper punctuation, readers may feel that you are not detail-oriented or careful about your work. If you can’t pay attention to details such as grammar when writing audit reports, then why would they think you were careful with the details of your internal audit? Just one error in your audit report can negatively impact your credibility. Having errors can make your points seem less valid to readers. It’s nearly impossible to persuade readers to take action when you and your internal audit report have lost credibility. Pay attention to the basics so that your audit report can be as impactful as possible.
Tip #5: Keep Your Tone Objective
With audit report writing, it is important to be unbiased. However, it can be easy to overlook the implications that your choice of words may have. What seems objective to you may not come across as objective to the reader. Choose your words carefully to avoid sounding biased or negative. An objective tone is the only way to persuade readers to accept the ideas you present in your internal audit report. Even if your message is negative, your tone when delivering it must remain unbiased. Otherwise, your readers will likely dismiss your audit report and the ideas it contains.
Tip #6: Consider the Five C’s
In order to be impactful, your internal audit report should contain the following five elements:
- Criteria: What should exist? These are the standards, policies, procedures, etc. that are already defined and should be followed.
- Condition: What does exist? This is the factual evidence that was observed during the internal audit.
- Cause: Why did the problem occur? This provides the reasons for the differences between the criteria and the condition.
- Consequence: What is the risk/negative outcome because of the finding? This states the risk that the company could face when the criteria and condition differ.
- Corrective Action: What should be done to rectify the error? This explains the action plans and recommendations that you suggest for correcting the current conditions.
Using the five C’s in audit report writing can boost the persuasiveness of your report. These elements won’t guarantee that your internal audit report will achieve its persuasive goal, but your report is more likely to be successful when you implement them. Pay particular attention to the consequences, as this provides the “so what?” argument to nudge management into action. It shows who will benefit from action and why. The most effective descriptions of consequences are given in business-oriented terms using measurable elements in time-specific frames. Be sure to mention money, safety, and program integrity if they are at stake.
Audit Services from an Experienced Audit Firm
Following the above tips can help make your internal audit reports more persuasive and effective in inspiring action. If you don’t have someone in your organization to perform internal audits, The Baird Audit Group can help. We are an audit firm with a team of seasoned CPAs and accountants who have all the industry knowledge necessary to meet your organization’s audit needs. Our audit services include everything from internal audits to fraud examination. With the help of our audit services, your organization can improve its operational and financial processes, which in turn can increase your efficiency and profitability. Reach out to us today at 706-855-9500 or online to get started.