Six tips on better business writing for TPE
A successful CA must have excellent communication skills: one of our TPE examiners looks at how better business writing can improve your performance in the TPE exam.
The TPE exam is the culmination of the CA qualification, showcasing a candidate’s technical and professional skills.
Your case study solution will benefit from being written in a concise manner: better answers tend to come from students who have thought about what they want to say, and produced, on average, a 20-page document.
This document must communicate professional advice for a variety of parties, as outlined in the case study.
1. Use short sentences
Be clear and concise. Short, sharp sentences communicate the information simply and without any ambiguity. It is important that the recipient / marker is able to clearly understand what you are recommending and why you have reached that conclusion.
Simple language doesn’t mean a lack of analysis and thought. It means that you can communicate your advice and analysis in a way that is easily understood by the reader. You still need to tell them what to do, why they should do it and how they should do it.
Written communication can be blunter than verbal communication without being unprofessional or offensive.
2. Think before you type
Candidates' answers can contain poor or unclear analysis or a lack of clear explanations. You will not be able to produce a good TPE answer unless you have planned your answer before you start to write it.
Planning means that you should have completed the numerical, or non-numerical analysis, and should know exactly what you are recommending and why. By planning in advance, you can lead with your conclusion (and don’t just add it in at the end!).
3. Give clear advice that speaks to your audience
Candidates are expected to give clear, professional advice. To give advice, you must know your audience and understand the business you are advising on. Make sure you aren’t giving overly technical and complicated accounting advice to non-accountants.
Never forget to state the obvious; for example, contact a lawyer if there has been a breach of laws or regulations.
Remember to communicate the impact of the advice you are giving. Will your recommendation have a financial impact on the business or an impact on the stakeholders?
Don’t just give advice - tell them what they need to do to act upon your recommendation. For example, if there is a lack of management oversight, then explaining that they need to review monthly management accounts is probably insufficient.
Explain that they should be looking at profit margins, the cash balance, interest cover, for example, and explain why they should look at these figures.
4. Think about the structure
Clear communication is not just about the words themselves. A good structure aids communication. As part of the planning of a section, you should ensure that you know what headings you are going to use, and the priority or order of the headings. Try to avoid copying and pasting sections after you have written them.
Ideally, the headings you use in a document will mirror those headings in the marking schedule. Using numbering for sections (1, 2, 3 etc) and headings (3.1, 3.2, 3.3 etc) will improve your structure.
Remember, you can use sections and headings in all documents and not just in the report. Use appendices for all but the simplest calculations and make use of tables where appropriate to break up the text.
5. Aim for a professional tone
Professional business writing does not need to be overly formal. It's important to avoid using technical accounting language when writing for non-accountants, where terms like 'earnings method', 'creditor days' or 'leveraged' will not necessarily be understood by everyone. If you do use terms like these, clearly explain what they mean.
6. Use the correct names
Closely observe the name and spelling of the business and the client(s); small mistakes here can suggest a lack of attention to detail, and will not reassure the client.