Top tips to prepare and design your annual reports

The annual report is one of the most important documents your organisation will publish, so it is important to invest an ample amount of resources to get it right.

An annual report outlines the activities and financial performance of your organisation and highlights key achievements and work completed throughout the year.

With the annual report season near for 2020-2021, we’ve compiled our top tips to ensure you present the best report possible.

It’s important to start preparing your annual report early. We recommend allowing at least 8 weeks for the entire process. This will ensure a thorough edit is completed, followed by design work, indexing and a final proofread.


When editing your annual report, a fresh eye is invaluable. It will help pick out flaws in the content quickly and identify if the writing is confusing, too complex or inconsistent.

There are 3 main elements to the editing process. Ensure you refer to government and internal style guides at each stage.

  1. Content editing

Content editing refers to developmental, substantive or structural editing. It involves revising and rewriting content, including moving entire paragraphs, adding new content to fill in the gaps or deleting original content and restructuring it to improve flow and clarity.

  1. Copy editing

Copy editing looks at the style of content. It involves correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation, verifying facts, ensuring consistency, clarifying meaning and improving readability. Read our Plain English guide for government communicators to learn more about readability.

  1. Proofreading

Proofreading is the final step of the editing process. At this stage, you should identify any spelling, grammar, punctuation, style and formatting errors and ensure all changes from other steps have been included. Read to make sure the content flows well, each section and paragraph makes sense and adds value to the report. Make sure no text errors have slipped through during the editing process.


The design of your annual report is just as important as the content. Australian Federal Government and all state and territory government annual reports must adhere to publishing and printing guidelines. These are available in the Parliament of Australia’s ‘Advice to government agencies’.

Before starting, your designer will need to know the structure of the document and the design layout. Consider the points below when thinking about the design of your annual report.

  1. Text

The text should be readable and appealing to the eye. Always use black as the primary text colour, along with a range of text styles and heading levels. Text that is too small will affect the accessibility of online versions of the report. It’s also important to have enough spacing before headers to break up each section of the report and increase readability.

  1. Images, figures and tables

When including images, figures or tables make sure they add relevant information to the document. Also include titles, captions, sources and any relevant notes with the images. Remember, your report may need to be printed in multiple colours if it includes figures.

  1. Financial pages

Financial pages are a key part of the document. They are normally supplied to design as a scanned PDF to ensure the accuracy of information. These pages are placed into the document exactly as they are supplied and can’t be formatted to match the rest of the document.

By following this guide, you’ll be on your way to creating an accurate and clear annual report.

Do you need support in developing your annual report? We provide content writing and design services exclusively for annual reports. Reach out to us at [email protected] and one of our Content Strategists will get in touch with you.

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