Creating effective audit reports – Readings – Designing and Writing Message-based Audit Reports by Sally F. Cutler – Book Review
Designing and Writing Message-based Audit Reports
Order Number: 453
By Sally F. Cutler
2001; 191 pages; paperback
IIA members: $55.00; nonmembers: $65.00 Published by The Institute of Internal Auditors Inc.
Phone Orders: +1-877-867-4957 (U.S. only)
+1-770-442-8633, Ext. 275 (outside U.S.)
Web site: www.theiia.org
MANY INTERNAL AUDITORS consider writing audit reports to be the toughest part of their job. Even skilled writers can find it difficult to convert field audit results into timely and effective written reports. Likewise, overseeing the process of creating and editing reports can be a struggle for audit directors and managers.
Given these challenges, useful practice aids on report writing are always welcome. Despite its awkward title, Designing and Writing Message-based Audit Reports, by Sally Cutler, is a thoughtful, up-to-date review that most internal auditors should find helpful.
Cutler, an experienced business writing consultant and trainer, provides fresh slants on a broad range of topics involved in audit report writing. For example, an introductory chapter analyzes the audiences for audit reports and discusses their different needs and expectations. This chapter identifies more categories of potential readers than one might expect, naming eight and sorting them into three groups. The first group consists of readers in the audited unit–its management, the executives to whom management reports, and the process owners and implementers. The second group includes readers in the larger organization–the board of directors, executives in general, executives who are responsible for the internal audit function, and other members of internal auditing. The final group comprises readers who are external to the organization–the outside auditors. This kind of thoughtful analysis of what otherwise might seem obvious is found throughout the book.
Other chapters cover key areas such as the reporting process, writing quality, strategies for reviewing and editing reports, and even “future issues” of multimedia reporting and consulting reports. A chapter on the reporting process discusses practical current issues, including writing reports in a company that relies on electronic work-papers.
The heart of the author’s work, however, is a chapter on report design. This chapter, which comprises more than half the book, offers a palette of designs to suit the needs of any audit group and includes many examples illustrating different approaches to report format and content. The guidance is timely and–not surprising for an IIA publication–linked to The IIA’s Professional Practices Framework. There are numerous useful citations to the Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing and Professional Practice Advisories. The book also provides detailed discussions and examples on subjects such as including a rating system, using graphics, and selecting a structure–paragraphs, tables, and bullet lists–in audit reports.
The book is replete with checklists. There’s one for almost every aspect of report writing, a feature that certainly will appeal to those who take advantage of this approach. For others, it may be overkill. Also, it’s unfortunate that a reference work of this type lacks an index.
Overall, given its high-level overview and focus on audit design, this book should be valuable to experienced auditors and to leaders of audit organizations. By itself, however, it may not be enough for beginning auditors. Those who are new to the profession usually don’t design reports right away. Instead, they use prescribed formats and approaches, and their top priority is writing well within those strictures.
Thus, new auditors, as well as old hands who want to sharpen their skills, probably should supplement Cutler’s well-organized, 25-page summary of highlights on technical writing with additional guidance. Report Writing for Internal Auditors, by Angela J. Maniak (McGraw-Hill 1990), is a very good reference and is sold through The IIA’s bookstore. Maniak’s book is the converse of Cutler’s: it focuses predominantly on writing issues, with only a short discussion of report design and format.
The best approach is to use both references. Taken together, Cutler and Maniak provide a wealth of insight on the entire spectrum of report writing issues.
MEREK LIPSON, JD, is director of internal auditing for PG&E Corporation in San Francisco.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Institute of Internal Auditors, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group