Annual Reports: How to avoid mistakes

As an annual report proofreader, I see similar mistakes over and over. Yet, typos are rare. In a 150 page document, with about 50 very dense, copy-heavy pages, I usually find only a handful of spelling mistakes.

What’s more common is inconsistency in how phrases, titles and financial terms are presented. This is usually due to different writers’ input into the report. Non-financial sections are mostly written by the corporate communications team, and financial statements by the accounting team.

As an example, “Non-controlling Interests” or “Company” may be the norm in first sections of the report (Management Discussion, Director’s Report, Remuneration Report), but in the notes to the financial statements, initial caps are often changed to “non-controlling interests” or “company”. Likewise with ‘director’ or ‘Director’.

Misuse and inconstancy of hyphens is another easy mistake. I’ts common to see a mix of, for instance ‘Black-Scholes’ and ‘Black Scholes’ throughout the annual report.

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.

It’s best to decide on one style and stick to it.

The hierarchy of headings are also easily confused by graphic designers. And who can blame them when there’s 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.

For an experienced annual report proofreader, contact Rosemary Gillespie on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or watch our short video with great proofreading tips: Foolproof Tips for Proofreading –

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