Watch your language! (use of words in audit reports) (Great Communicators)

Author:McNamee, David W.

Doesn't "auditee" sound like someone to whom something is done? Unwillingly?

Although understanding and practicing effective communications are directly linked to success in almost any profession or endeavor, internal auditors need to be among the "great" communicators. To find the truth, to transmit it, to interact effectively, to persuade, to influence, to negotiate -- all can be complex and delicate tasks. In this special communications section, internal auditors, consultants, and others provide concepts and strategies that can contribute to more powerful skills in several communications areas.

WORDS are powerful symbols. They are full of meaning and rich with experience, and they can touch our emotions deeply.

Do you remember the taunts of childhood playmates and the rhyme your parents taught you? "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" Somehow, I never really felt better, in spite of that rhyme. Words can hurt. They also can heal, inform, motivate, confuse, and do just about anything else. Communication through language allows us to work together in cooperative communities. On the other hand, some words can break down that cooperation.

Language is important in the profession of internal auditing. We perform our work in an emotion-laden atmosphere. We can use our language to make our tasks easier, or we can choose words that will evoke anger, resistance, fear, and suspicion. Often we aren't even aware of the effect of some of our words. How can that be? It is because the words have become part of our professional vocabulary and we no longer look at them from the recipient's point of view. Times have changed and our language has not.

* Those "IA" Words

Take the word auditee. It rhymes with "stuckee." It sounds like someone to whom something is done -- an unwilling recipient of the audit process. Our profession has long since advocated the partnership concept with operating management, and lately we have embraced Total Quality Management (TQM). "Auditee" does not conjure up a picture of a person receiving a valuable service. An "auditee" does not sound like a partner or a customer or a client. We must find a better way to refer to those whom we audit.

Another of our favorite words is finding, or even worse, deficiency finding. A finding is something we found out. We discovered a "gotcha!" You can see the other person wince as you pronounce the word. You have caught them! It is as if there was something just...

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