HASKINS & SELLS
CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS
NEW YORK SAN FRANCISCO
CHICAGO LOS ANGELES
DETROIT BULLETIN SEATTLE
ST. LOUIS DENVER
NEW YORK, MAY 15, 1918
Using Your Head
A N Y one who writes well can make good
looking working papers. Some of the
best accountants in the profession make the
worst looking working papers. Better a
poorly written sheet, so long as it is readable,
which conveys information of value,
than a sheet of copper-plate which is meaningless.
Making good working papers is an art.
The ideal papers combine information and
accuracy with neatness and orderliness of
presentation. They tell their story to the
stranger as quickly as to one who is familiar
with them. They bear the name of the person
who made them.
Success in the preparation of papers is
necessarily founded on the proper concept
as to their purpose. Those which might be
needed for testimony in connection with
litigation would naturally go into greater detail
than in the case of an ordinary audit.
One account may require exhaustive analysis.
Another may need only passing reflection.
"Stringing out the work" and "pushing
the pencil" are traditional phrases in accounting
work. They are not synonymous.
They are prompted by different motives.
The former is intentionally dishonest. The
latter is the result of ignorance or thoughtlessness.
The result produced in either case
is the same.
Unnecessary work, no matter what the
cause, may have a number of undesirable
consequences. It may increase the cost of
our services beyond reasonable proportions.
It may prevent the doing properly of things
which are really important. It may make
the cost of the engagement so high as to be
unprofitable. The first two are unfair to
the client. The third is not good business.
The man who spends ten hours filling up
sheet after sheet of analysis paper with figures
taken from a subsidiary ledger must
give a good reason for it. If he uses this
method of verifying a liability when a few
independent calculations would serve the
same purpose he is, to put it mildly, inefficient.
Following last year's working papers has
been the undoing of many a man. The
papers are supplied with the idea that they
will serve as a means of continuity between
the present and the previous work. At
times they may be used as a general guide.
Their wise use in this respect is conducive
to uniformity and is pleasing to the report
department. They should never be followed
blindly and without thought.
Intelligent originality is a quality much
to be desired. Thoughtfulness is incumbent
upon every accountant who would succeed.
Mr. Haskins was fond of saying that the
highest function of an accountant was to