Tips on writing audit reports

There are rules on how to write an audit report that is readable and can convey the message to the readers. Here are just a few of them:

  1. Use simple language. Do not use fancy words to impress the readers. Most readers are generally not impressed by big words. Always use familiar words. That does not mean you should not use long words. The word “instantaneously” is long but it is also familiar to most people. The word “alb” is short but it is not too familiar to many people.
  2. Get rid of deadwood. Here are some examples. Instead of saying “in the month of August”, just say “in August”. Instead of “a fine in the amount of $2000”, say “a $2000 fine”. Use “daily” instead of “on a daily basis”. Write as if you are being charged for every word – and not as if you are being paid for every word.
  3. Avoid accusatory words. Do not use these words: alarming, dishonest, perjured, intentional, negligent, willful misconduct, reckless, incompetent, fraudulent, dangerous, deplorable, criminal, etc.
  4. Write short sentences. Break up those long sentences into shorter ones. This makes it a lot easier for the readers.
  5. Stick to the facts. If you could not find a weekly inspection checklist, say so in your report. Don’t ay that the weekly inspection was never done. Just because you could not locate the checklist does not mean that the inspection was never done. The unavailability of the checklist may well be a separate finding.
  6. Be concise and precise. If you inspected 24 drums of hazardous wastes and 17 of them did not have “hazardous waste” labels on them, say so. Don’t say “many drum have no labels on them”. Say “17 out of 24 have no labels.”
  7. Avoid excessive use of acronyms. Don’t try to bedazzle your readers with your knowledge of technical terms and jargons. Keep in mind that many readers of your audit report are not engineers or scientists. Many senior managers are attorneys, accountants and MBAs. Acronyms such as PSD, RCRA, TRI, CERCLA, TSCA, RMP, PSM, etc will put them in a coma.
  8. Be specific in your conclusions. If you are doing a compliance audit and everything appears to be in order, the only thing you could possibly say is that “based on your review and visit on the day of the audit, the facility appears to be in compliance (on that day).”

2 responses to “Tips on writing audit reports

  1. Good article, Norman. I would only add; Be sure to run the spelling and grammar check.

  2. Great summary. Alot of this guidance can be used for most technical writing and some student cover letter and resumes that I review 😉

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