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Internal Audit Reports Post Sarbanes-Oxley: A Guide to Process-Driven Reporting by Susan M. Switzer

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CHAPTER 7

STRUCTURED SENTENCES

Reviews of internal controls proceed logically and systematically, and so should every sentence that “communicates the engagement results.” In English sentences, the placement of the words matters. What comes first is perceived as more important, and what follows needs to be subordinated so that the relationships between the ideas are clear.

But, in the real world, auditors rarely schedule enough time to review their sentences with the same sharp observational skills they use in reviewing potential areas of risk. And many auditors work in teams spread out in cyberspace, so they tend to write reports—and sentences—on the run.

Speaking of running on, if three people in geographically diverse locations are writing an internal audit report conclusion via e-mail, there is a good chance that their sentences will sound patched together like this one, which continues aggregating what come across as afterthoughts, even though the words make sense, but somehow never satisfies the reader either because of the complexity and sheer number of words or the loss of focus on the main idea. (Does the verb “satisfies” refer back to words or sentence?)

Regardless of new software programs that almost write the report automatically—and, in some cases, because of sophisticated high-tech tools—new methods of managing report production are needed. Delegation of specific segments and ample discussion of how those segments fit together will improve sentence construction, as ...

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