Writing, like auditing, is a systematic process. Contrary to popular myths about wild-eyed literary celebrities—and widely held perceptions that math and verbal skills are mutually exclusive—writing is a lot like computer programming, especially report writing.


Like programming, report writing is going after something: a conclusion to be reached and acted on, a successful delivery of information, a new set of results or outputs to be acknowledged. Creating an “A-ha!” moment for Audit Committees, Chief Audit Executives (CAEs), and managers, similar to what programmers experience when the data runs successfully against the software they have written, is something for internal auditors to aspire to when writing reports.

Report writing also proceeds logically, from one step to the next, including whatever supports the thesis and discarding whatever is unnecessary or distracting. Anyone who has ever watched a computer program “loop” understands the importance of proceeding systematically from A to B to C, without skipping B. And anyone whose manager has ever fired back a red-lined draft of an internal audit report knows that including only relevant content is an absolute requirement.

Like effective programming, effective report writing also stands the tests of time, multiple users, and multiple interpretations. Screenwriters call that quality “making lines actor-proof”; internal auditors might call it “making causal relationships ...

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