CPAs Aren’t Just About Numbers; They Also Need Good Business Writing Skills
When you say “CPA” many people think “numbers person” or envision someone at adesk stacked high with financial data, furiously pounding on a calculator. That imageis no longer accurate, if it ever was. Today’s successful CPAs must be skilledcommunicators with top-notch business writing skills.
3 Tips to Becoming a Well Written CPA
1. Presenting & Explaining.
Today’s CPAs have access to an astonishing amount of data, thanks to technology. While that’s a good thing, it can be daunting when determining what to include in adocument, and more importantly, what to exclude. It’s tempting to put as muchinformation into a document as possible to appear thorough (or let’s face it, to impressyour reader). However, the ability to present and explain research and data clearly andconcisely will always serve you better. Remember to:
- Keep it simple
- Use an active voice
- Make sure to address the who, what, when, where, why, and how
2. Persuading Readers.
There’s no better way for a CPA to persuade an audience than with a well-writtenbusiness document. One of easiest, and most effective, ways to persuade readers isthe 4Ps structure – position, problem, possibilities, and proposal:
- Position. State the position as you understand it: “Our IT expenses increased by20% last month.”
- Problem. Describe the problem, or fact pattern, that demonstrates a need foraction. “We purchased 50 additional laptops last month. That seems excessiveas we only have 12 employees.”
- Possibilities. Explain the possible reasons why the problem is occurring: “We sentdozens of laptops to a repair shop last month. The shop believes that someone isspilling coffee in the laptops. We’ve noticed that one of our employee’s often hascoffee stains on his by the end of the day recently. He is the only employee whodrinks coffee.”
- Proposal. State your proposal and how the reader(s) should act: “We believe Jim,our careless coffee drinker, has ruined numerous computers. He should no longerbe allowed to consume beverages at his desk.”
The example above is overly simple (and yes, a bit silly) but it demonstrates how clearand logical business writing can put everything into perspective for readers.
3. Differentiating the Writing Style for Different Audiences.
CPAs may be asked to write some communications to clients, some to other CPAs, some to banks and some to management. Some of the readers a CPA writes to will have deep financial knowledge. Others will have none at all. Tailor your writing of each communication by asking:
- Who will read this document?
- How much do they already know?
- What key points are important to this audience?
Once you answer these questions, you can tailor your writing even further with graphs, charts, quotes, number, equations, and more.
Even if you consider yourself to be a “numbers person” learning to write well is easy. Really.
All it takes is knowing some basic rules, writing to your audience, and practice. Want to speed up the process? Surgent can help you take your written communications skills to the next level. Attend one of our upcoming live CPE webinars:
Business Writing: Master Organization and Email Communication (BWEC), Monday, January 11th from 1-3 pm (Eastern): Click Here.
Business Writing: Enhance Grammar, Style and Tone (BWGS), Monday, January 18th from 1-3 pm (Eastern): Click Here.
Business Writing: Be Clear, Concise and Convincing (BWCC), Thursday, January 28th from 1-3 pm (Eastern): Click Here.