How to Make General Journal Entries With Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

by Kathy Adams McIntosh

Accountants record financial transactions using journal entries. Companies use a general journal and subsidiary journals. The accountant uses the subsidiary journal to record transactions that only impact certain accounts, such as accounts payable or sales. The accountant uses the general journal to record any transaction not appearing in a subsidiary journal. Each entry in the general journal takes the form of a general journal entry. Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) provide the guidelines that accountants use to record general journal entries. GAAP requires each entry to include an equal amount of debits and credits. The company records a journal entry for every transaction that occurs.

Read the paperwork that documents the transaction that occurred. Review each account description listed in the company’s chart of accounts. Highlight the accounts impacted by the transaction that occurred.

Classify each account as an asset, liability, equity, revenue or expense account. Assets and expenses increase with a debit. Liabilities, equity and revenue accounts increase with a credit.

Find the dollar amount associated with each transaction in its the paperwork. Highlight these amounts. Match each dollar amount to a highlighted account. Identify each dollar amount as a debit or credit.

Create the journal entry template using three column paper. Label the first column as Account Description, the second column as Debit and the third column as Credit.

Write the account description in the first column for each account. Enter the debit amounts in the second column for the corresponding accounts. Enter the credit amounts in the third column for the corresponding accounts.

Add the total debits. Add the total credits. Subtract the total credits from the total debits. Verify that the answer equals zero.


  • A general journal entry will not update the financial accounts. The accountant must post each entry to the general ledger. This requires transferring the numbers recorded in each journal entry to the corresponding account in the general ledger.
  • Journal entries should only be recorded in one journal. Do not record journal entries in the subsidiary journal and the general journal. If the journal entry appears in both journals, it will post to the financial accounts twice.

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