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Hints and tips for annual reports

Originally posted on 30th June 2014 and updated on 28th February 2017

I work on a lot of annual reports and often encounter similar inconsistencies in files so I thought I'd take the time to write this blog so that if you're writing a report (or new to proofreading them), you have some hints and tips of what to look out for. This is by no means exhaustive of the issues I deal with but hopefully it gives a good starting point to standardising your files.


  • Director
  • Board
  • Company
  • Group
  • Non-Executive Director
  • Ordinary Shares
  • Annual General Meeting

The above are examples of words that are common to annual reports and often mix the usage of upper and lower case. It is possible that general companies will be lower case and the main Company is upper case, but where there's no clear distinction between usage it needs to be consistent.

Another capitalisation issue often relates to cross-referencing parts of the report - is it always Annual Report, Statement of Comprehensive Income, Chair's Foreword, for example, or do you want to use sentence case and/or do you want to use quote marks round the titles of the sections? There's no right or wrong answer but consistency is ideal.

Spelling variations

  • Pence or p
  • Million/billion or m/bn
  • % or per cent
  • Do the above vary depending on whether they're in the main text or a table?
  • advisor or adviser
There's often no right or wrong version for these but it's best to choose your preferred version and stick to it.


  • How are the table columns formatted: left-justified, centred or right-justified?
  • Where brackets are used in numbers (for negative amounts), do they align with the edge of the numbers or do they overhang slightly?
  • Do headings use sentence case or initial capitals?
  • How are dates formatted? 31 March 20XX, 31st Mar 20XX, 31/03/XX, 31/03/20XX... The options are endless but choose a system and stick to it.
  • How are year ranges presented?
  • How do you format numbers? Do you spell one to ten and use digits from 11 upwards, for example? And does it change between the main text and a table?
  • With table notes, do you have them in italics or standard font? Do they have full stops at the end of the line?
  • Are you happy to have Chairman or should it be Chair or Chairperson?
  • When referring to the company, is it singular or plural? The same goes for group - the group is or the group are?
  • When referencing the auditor, is it singular auditor or plural auditors? (Auditor's report or Auditors' report? You usually have many people working for one audit company so either is usually valid, unless you have two signatures in which case I'd definitely go with plural.)

Overall checks

As with any other formatted file, don't forget to make sure the contents page details and numbers match the titles of the sections and the pages they're on, that the pages are numbered correctly and that headers and footers are correct and match the page contents. Finally, if you have access to it, don't forget to check the spine!

And finally...

If you don't have a style guide, then I would really recommend creating one next time you're working on a report as it will help to ensure consistency not only within the file, but also across all of your publications, thus helping to maintain your brand identity. If you then get the file proofread (which needless to say I would recommend), you'll make a proofreader very happy knowing they have something to refer to.

Alternatively, if you're a proofreader working on clients' reports, if they don't have a style guide, add value to your service by creating one while working on the file. This often means you get to choose your favourite styles and spellings and means that if you work for the client again you'll have a style guide to work from to save time and duplicated effort. Everyone's a winner!

Written by Kate Haigh.