Around the start of a new financial year, the team at Proof Communications is asked to proofread annual reports and it’s always interesting to see how few typos we find. In a typical 150-page annual report, we usually find only a handful of spelling mistakes, even in the 50 pages or so of very dense, copy-heavy financial statements.
What’s more usual is inconsistency in how phrases, titles or financial terms are presented. This is down to different writers’ input into the annual report.
Inconsistencies are king
As an example, “Non-controlling Interests” or “Company” may be the norm in the first sections of a report, but the initial caps change to lower case in the financial statements.
Along the same lines, job titles and positions can be treated inconsistently. We’ll find ‘director’ with a lower case initial on one page, yet ‘Director’ 50 pages later.
Hyphens or dashes?
Misuse and inconsistent use of hyphens is another easy mistake. It’s common to see a mix of, for example, ‘Black-Scholes’ and ‘Black Scholes’ throughout an annual report.
Equally, hyphens are used where en dashes are needed to show a range, as in a sequence of dates.
Watch for bullets
Watch out for bullet points. Again, there is often inconsistency in how they are punctuated. Some will have initial capitals, and some not; others will have semi colons and some not.
The best approach is to decide on one style and stick to it. This is why style guides can be very useful.
Then there’s the hierarchy of headings, which are easily confused by graphic designers. And who can blame them when there are so many to deal with?
It’s important to check that the hierarchy of section and sub-headings is consistent throughout.
Don’t forget the details
Lastly, with numerous changes to the copy and design, it’s easy to forget to update the table of contents, and so double check that the page numbers match the table of contents.