A ledger account and a general journal are both elements of a double-entry bookkeeping system, but they serve different purposes:
- Ledger Account: A ledger account is a detailed record of transactions for a specific account in the general ledger. It acts as a permanent record for a particular type of transaction such as cash, accounts receivable, accounts payable, etc. Each transaction is entered separately, with a date, reference number, description, and corresponding debit or credit amount. The ledger account provides a running balance for each account, allowing quick reference and analysis of individual account balances.
- General Journal: The general journal is the book of original entry, where all transactions are initially recorded before being transferred to individual ledger accounts. It is the first step in the accounting cycle and includes a chronological list of the transactions, with a date, reference number, and detailed description. Each entry in the general journal includes the accounts affected, the debit and credit amounts, and a brief explanation of the transaction. The purpose of the general journal is to maintain a complete and systematic record of all transactions, enabling later posting to the appropriate ledger accounts.
In essence, the general journal is used to record all transactions in a chronological order, while the ledger account provides a detailed summary of each individual account's transactions.