General Journal

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on June 13, 2023

Journal (or General Journal)

The journal, also known as the general journal, is involved in the first phase of accounting because all transactions are recorded in it, originally in chronological order.

This is why the general ledger is also called the original book of entries, chronological book, or daybook. In the journal, two aspects of every transaction are recorded, following the double-entry system of accounting.

Before recording transactions in the journal, it is important to understand double-entry bookkeeping, as well as the differences between the two main types of bookkeeping: namely, double-entry and single-entry bookkeeping.

After analyzing a business transaction, it is recorded in a book known as the journal (or general journal). When a transaction is logged in the journal, it becomes a journal entry.

The process of recording transactions in the journal is referred to as journalizing.

Journal Entry: Definition

Recording a transaction in the books of accounts is known as making an entry. When a transaction is recorded in the journal, it is known as a journal entry.

Journalizing: Definition

Journalizing is the second step in the accounting cycle. The first step is transaction analysis, which provides the information needed to journalize a transaction. The process of recording in the journal is called journalizing.

General Journal: Explanation

The first book in which transactions are recorded is called the general journal. Transactions are recorded in chronological order (i.e., the order of their occurrence).

The general journal is a diary of business equities.

Throughout time, the general journal has been referred to in many ways. For example, it is also known as the book of original entry, the primary book, the book of primary entry, and the book of first entry.

Some transactions do not involve sales, purchases, cash receipts, or cash payments, or are complex to fit conveniently into the general journal.

Examples include a sales or purchase return, a compound entry involving several accounts, and most adjusting entries. These entries are most easily made in the general journal.


Fortune Retail Store entered into the following three transactions:

  • 5 June: Purchased $500 worth of wine from the Neuman Wine Company that arrived damaged. It was returned, and Fortune's account was reduced.
  • 17 June: A. Wallar returned merchandise because it did not meet her needs. She received a $200 credit on her account.
  • 30 June: Depreciation expense for the month is $1,200.

These entries are recorded in the general journal shown below.

General Journal Entries

It is worth noting that the receivables and payables accounts must be posted twice.

That is to say, the entry must be posted to both the appropriate subsidiary account and the controlling account.

This posting is shown by noting both the controlling account number in the post reference column and the subsidiary ledger account number.

Advantages of General Journal

  • The general journal shows all information about a transaction as it takes place and also provides an explanation of the transaction.
  • It helps to locate errors.
  • It provides a chronological record of all transactions, which helps to locate transactions relating to a particular date.
  • It is not possible to omit a transaction because every transaction is recorded immediately.
  • As two aspects of a transaction are recorded in the journal, there is no chance of committing a mistake when writing to the ledger.
  • When preparing the journal, each transaction gives detailed information, which means it is helpful when posting entries into the ledger.

Format of General Journal

A standard format for a general journal is shown below.

General Journal Format

As shown above, a journal typically has five columns. The function of these columns is described briefly below.

1. Date

The year, month, and date of the transaction are written in the date column. The year is entered immediately below the heading. It is written once per page (i.e., it does not have to be repeated for every entry on the page).

2. Description

The description column is used to enter the names of the accounts involved in the transaction. The debit part of the entry is written first and the credit part is written below the debit part.

It is common to leave some space at the left-hand margin before writing the credit part of the journal entry.

A brief description known as narration is also written in this column below the credit part of the entry.

3. Posting Reference (PR)

All journal entries are periodically posted to the ledger accounts. In the posting reference column, the page number of the ledger account to which the entry belongs is written.

For example, if the cash account is on page number 101 in the ledger, the number 101 should be written in the posting reference column where the cash account appears in general journal.

4. Debit

This column is used to record the amounts of the accounts being debited.

5. Credit

This column is used to record the amounts of the accounts being credited.


The following transactions are related to Mr. John’s business.

Mr. John's Transactions


General Journal FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.