Speed Up the Writing Process


Some accountants dread preparing a written report or letter as much as their clients dread taxes. One reason is the amount of time the process seems to consume. For many practitioners, a single-page missive to a client can become a multihour nuisance. Letters and reports are unavoidable, however, and the following simple suggestions can help CPAs cut the time they spend on them.

Get started. Set a specific time for writing and treat it as an appointment with a client. Allow no interruptions.

Clarify your purpose before you start. Are you informing, requesting or persuading? If you want your reader to act on your message, then you are probably writing to persuade. Understanding your own intentions will help you be more effective.

Write straight through the first draft. Don’t dither over minor word choices or jump up from your desk to look for a small piece of data to plug in. Get the whole document on paper; you can revise later.

Don’t give too much history. Provide background information that pertains directly to the situation at hand. Too much history bores the reader and tires the writer.

Put your main point first (unless you have good reason to put it at the end). Your reader is most influenced by what he or she sees first; make your first point count.

Don’t inundate the reader with data. Focus on the bottom-line information. Give access to minutiae through appendices or online references.

After you draft the document, put it aside. This may seem counterintuitive, but taking a break between writing and revising will save you time and effort. Take a stroll around the block before you edit your work.

Keep sentences short. Don’t agonize over how to structure and punctuate an overlong sentence. Delete needless words. Create two or more shorter sentences out of a 30-word behemoth. Eliminate redundancies.

Split long sentences at conjunctions. If your sentence is too long, split the sentence either at a relative pronoun ( which, that, since or because ) or at a conjunction ( or, and or but ).

Leave time for proofreading. Be sure there are no spelling errors or typos. This includes the mistakes spell check can leave behind, such as where/wear, four/for and countless others. Read the document yourself after you’ve run spell check.

Source: Adapted from Get to the Point! by Elizabeth Danziger, published by Three Rivers/Random House. She is the author of several articles on writing and communication for the JofA . For more information go to www.worktalk.com .

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