How to avoid mistakes in your annual reports

Typical errors in annual reports and stakeholder documents

Our annual report proofreaders see the same mistakes in annual reports and financial statements year after year, as well as other types of stakeholder reports, such as sustainability reports.

But the mistakes are probably not what you think they are. In fact, typos are unusual. In a typical annual report of 150 or so pages, our annual report proofreaders usually find only a handful of spelling mistakes.

Why are inconsistencies in annual reports important to correct?

What our professional proofreaders do find, however, are considerable numbers of inconsistencies. This might not sound very important, but when the phrases, job titles, programs and financial terms are presented differently throughout the report, it looks sloppy to the reader.

When you’ve been so closely involved in the writing and design of an annual report, it’s hard to see the errors. It’s easy for mistakes to slip through. And these can potentially be costly mistakes that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Inconsistencies occur mostly as a result of different writers’ input into the report. Non-financial sections are mostly written by the corporate communications team, and financial statements by the accounting team.

What we find when proofreading annual reports – averaging 10 mark-ups a page

Good proofreaders will pick up and mark-up these variations so that the document is consistent throughout. That way, readers will feel confident that the report is accurate in all aspects.

We should know. Clients are amazed at the number of mark-ups our proofreaders return with their documents. In an annual report, we typically make 10 mark-ups a page. In a 150-page report, that’s around 1,500 mark-ups.

What are examples of inconsistencies in annual and other reports?

As an example, ‘Company’ or ‘Return on Equity’ may be the norm in the first sections of the report (Management Discussion, Director Report, Remuneration Report), but in the notes to the financial statements, initial caps are often changed to ‘company’ or ‘return on equity’. That is, there’s a switch from using initial capital letters to all sentence case. Likewise ‘director’ or ‘Director’.

Misuse and inconsistency of hyphens is another easy mistake. It’s common to see a mix of, for instance ‘Black-Scholes’ and ‘Black Scholes’ throughout the annual report. ‘Long-term’ and ‘long term’ without a hyphen is another very common example.

Equally, hyphens are used when dashes need to be, as in a sequence of dates.

Bullet points are another source of inconsistency. Some will have initial capitals, and some not; others will have semi colons and some not.

Whilst none of these alternatives is incorrect, it’s important for the smooth flow of an annual report, or any important stakeholder document, to decide on one style and stick to it.

The hierarchy of headings is also easily confused by graphic designers. And who can blame them when there are so many to deal with? Consequently, it’s important to check that the hierarchy of section and sub-headings is consistent throughout.

Lastly, with numerous changes to the copy and design, it’s easy to forget to update the table of contents, and so the page numbers may not match the table of contents.

How does an annual report proofreader help?

Professional proofreaders who specialise in annual report proofreading protect your brand.

When your report is going to be scrutinised by the media, the public, investors, the board, employees and other stakeholders, you want to be confident that it’s free of errors.

Although internal reviews and spell-checking programs can tackle the obvious issues, they don’t catch everything. Companies that use professional proofreaders seek help because they believe in the value and appreciate the comfort they gain from proofreading.

Proof Communications’ proofreading skills are extra insurance for your business; it’s your investment in ensuring your annual report, sustainability reports and other important stakeholder documents are the best they can be – free of typos, inconsistencies and other errors.

Our skilled, experienced proofreaders will give your annual report or other stakeholder documents an exacting, precise proofread that meets the highest standards.

Our experienced proofreaders for annual reports are adept at handling lengthy, complex content. As professional proofreaders with 20 plus years’ experience as annual report proofreaders, we know the typical mistakes and oversights in stakeholder documents.

We know what to look for. We pay attention to even the smallest of details.

We check every word, punctuation mark and sentence for accuracy and legibility. We mark up missing words, inconsistencies of headings and titles, typos, grammatical errors, and we’ll query content that doesn’t seem to make sense. We’ll make sure that the table of contents matches the content, that the bullet points are consistent and that captions are correct.

It might sound straightforward, but it takes enormous attention to detail and concentration to ensure that proofreading an annual report or stakeholder document is done correctly.

For experienced annual report proofreaders, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377. Or watch our short video with great proofreading tips: Foolproof Tips for Proofreading –

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