How to shock your communications or investor relations team

When a company or government agency asks us proofread their annual report, financial statements, PDS, sustainability report, RAP or other important stakeholder document, they will often say: ‘you won’t find many errors as we’ve read through the document in-house a few times. We just want to make sure we’ve not missed anything’.

But what we find surprises and very often, shocks them.

The reality is our professional proofreaders make an average of 10 mark-ups a page. In a 100-page document, that’s around 1,000 mark ups.

It’s so easy to miss the obvious

The trouble is, it’s so easy to not see what later seems obvious. In 2011, the Australian Defence Forces came under fire for issuing service personnel in the Middle East with embroidered badges identifying them as belonging to the ‘Royal Australlian Navy’. It’s unbelievable that no one spotted the mistake before the badges were released. But no one did.

As professional proofreaders for companies such as Qantas, Lendlease, Brambles, Blackmores and Credit Corp, we’ve found countless typos that snuck past the in-house communications or investor relations team. ‘Australaian’ (Australian), ‘divided’ (dividend), ‘singing’ (signing), ‘mangement’ (management), polices (policies) are among many examples.

Why do people miss typos in stakeholder documents?

Give yourself five seconds to read the following line:

Fifty florins for a flagon of fluff

How many Fs did you count? Six? Seven?

There are nine.

It’s so easy to miss the obvious when you’re reading a document you’ve written or been involved in writing because your brain knows what’s coming next, so it jumps ahead. We are all brilliant at jumping to conclusions and by drawing on our language experience, we make assumptions about which word is coming next.

That’s when we make mistakes, missing typos and inconsistencies.

Why you need a professional proofreader for annual reports

If you’ve put together any stakeholder document, you’ll know that the risk of mistakes occurring grows exponentially the greater the number of people involved in the document’s production.

After spending countless hours drafting a complex annual or business report, tender, white paper or other content, it’s impossible to proofread properly, even though your company’s brand reputation could depend upon it.

Even when clients run the content by their colleagues for a check, mistakes still slip through. That’s because when you’ve been working on a document for weeks, you know what’s coming next, which makes it very difficult to read the content afresh.

In fact, most of our mark-ups are not typos. The vast majority of our mark-ups are a result of inconsistencies. Inconsistencies are when the same term, phrase, program, job title are presented differently in different parts of the report.

For example, ‘Company’ or ‘Return on Equity’ may be presented with capital letters in the first sections of the report, but in the notes to the financial statements, the capitals could be changed to lower case: ‘company’ or ‘return on equity’. Likewise with ‘director’ or ‘Director’.

This may not seem very significant. But for the readers of your report, differences in how the same terms are presented looks sloppy and raises questions around the accuracy of the report.

So, how do you avoid having so many mark-ups in annual reports?

  1. Have one person who hasn’t been involved in writing the document proofread the final version before it goes to your designer. As well as reading for extra words and missing words, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, brief that person to:
    1. Check that words that use initial capitals appear with initial capitals all the way through
    2. Check that phrases using hyphens appear with hyphens all the way through.
  2. After design, check:
    1. the heading hierarchy is correct
    2. the page numbers match those in the table of contents
    3. the headings and subheadings match those in the table of contents.

These are a few of the most common mistakes we see as proofreaders for annual reports and other major stakeholder documents.

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 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 help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377 or head to the contact page.

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