What Does it Mean to Rule Off?

Rule Off

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Rule Off

“Rule off” is a term that primarily refers to the act of drawing a line, usually horizontal, to separate sections or to mark the end of a particular section in a document, ledger, or record. This line serves as a visual indication that no further entries or additions should be made beyond that point in the section.

In the context of accounting and bookkeeping:

  • Ledgers: Accountants traditionally “ruled off” a ledger when they were closing entries for a particular period. After all the postings for a particular time frame were completed, a line was drawn to indicate the end of entries for that period.
  • Financial Statements: When preparing financial statements, accountants might “rule off” sections to separate various elements, making the document clearer and more readable.
  • Mistakes: If a mistake was made in a handwritten ledger or record, rather than erasing or scribbling it out, it might be neatly ruled off to show that the entry should be ignored.

In broader contexts, “rule off” might also be used metaphorically to mean ending a particular activity or action.

It’s worth noting that with the advent of digital accounting and bookkeeping software, the act of manually “ruling off” ledgers has become less common, but the terminology remains as a nod to traditional practices.

Example of Rule Off

Let’s use the context of a traditional handwritten accounting ledger:


Imagine a small business owner, Mr. Thompson, who still maintains a handwritten cash receipts ledger. At the end of every month, he reconciles the ledger with the actual cash in hand and his bank statements. Once he is certain that all entries for the month have been accurately recorded and reconciled, he will “rule off” the ledger.

Ledger Entries:

  • Jan 1: Starting balance – $5,000
  • Jan 5: Cash Sale – $500
  • Jan 11: Cash Sale – $300
  • Jan 18: Cash received from debtor – $200
  • Jan 24: Cash Sale – $450

Once Mr. Thompson reconciles the ledger at the end of January and confirms that the total matches his actual cash and bank statement, he draws a horizontal line under the last entry on January 24th. This line indicates that no more entries for January will be added below this point.

Ruling Off:

He might also write the total balance after the line and, above the line, write “End of January” or “January Reconciled” to make it clear why the line has been drawn. In this case, the balance would be:

$5,000 + $500 + $300 + $200 + $450 = $6,450

So, he’d write:

End of January – Balance: $6,450

Then, the first entry for February would be recorded below this line, clearly separating January’s entries from February’s.

This “ruling off” process helps in keeping the records neat, organized, and clear. If someone later reviews the ledger, the ruled-off line communicates that January’s transactions have been fully accounted for and reconciled.

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