April 2019

Happy April everyone, the clocks have moved forward, the evenings are lighter, the weather is warmer and the cricket season is starting. One of the best times of the year!

In my last two blogs, I spent time explaining proofreading. Isthmus Consulting offers other services (as outlined in Jan blog) and I wish to expand on one this time: independent examination.

What is it?

It isn’t an audit, but it is outside scrutiny of charity accounts and assesses whether the charity has kept proper records, that the year end accounts agree to those records and have been produced in accordance with charity law. It isn’t just ticking a box. Trustees should view it as an assurance that they are doing the right thing. However, it is an important point that the trustees are responsible for the production of the accounts: having an independent examination does not absolve them of that responsibility.

This blog gives a good overview.

Why have an independent examiner (IE)?

The answer depends on your circumstances.

Charities with income £25,000 or more must have an IE, if not a full blown audit.

Charities with income below £25,000 need not have an IE but may find it a valuable service, nonetheless. While small, charities may be operated well by a trusted, close-knit group; but as it grows it may become operated by a wider group, in different areas and handle much more money.

It is often as charities grow, particularly quickly, that proper controls are not put in place and issues creep in. Kids Company  grew quickly and never implemented controls resulting in grants being spent inappropriately.

The trustees are ultimately responsible for proper financial controls, recording and production of accounts. There are many common errors made by trustees where proper financial advice has not been sought or followed.

In 2018, the Charity Commission found 25% of charity accounts did not meet acceptable standards and almost 40% of smaller charities provided inaccurate financial information. This meant charity trustees were not meeting their obligations. An IE can provide advice and support to help you, the trustees, meet Charity Commission requirements.

How can I help?

I have over 15 years’ experience of accounting, including the maintaining of financial records and accounts for charities. I am keen to work with those smaller charities, perhaps around that £25,000 threshold, to help them fulfil their requirements under charity law.

My services include: giving simple advice, account preparation and full independent examination. If you are a charity and wanted to discuss how I can help then please get in touch!

Kindly proofread by Annie Deakins at Proofnow.

February 2019

Following on from my January blog, introducing myself and some of my services, I thought I would expand on one of them: proofreading. There are some frequently asked questions whenever I talk about proofreading. I’ve addressed a few of them below.

So, what is proofreading? 

It is a certainty this question will be asked. Not many, outside publishing, have come across the term, so I have prepared a few words to help.

Essentially, it is a check. A check, not only of spelling, punctuation and grammar, but of consistency and accuracy of the text and its formatting. Traditionally, the proofreader would check the final drafts (proofs) of manuscripts for any typesetting errors, etc. This would be the last chance to spot any errors before publication.

As such, a proofreader is the final pair of eyes before it hits the public domain.

Do I need a proofreader?

In my biased view, yes! It’s not just books – anything written can be proofread. Poor spelling, punctuation and grammar can affect your professional image. The littlest of mistakes can make the headlines(*), or even cost you the chance of a job!

Surely a spellchecker does it all?

Modern online spellcheckers are great but only really check spelling. If the wrong word is in there, but spelt correctly, it won’t get picked up. Form instead of from is a good example; something more extreme can be found here.

MS Word is getting sophisticated, in that it can spot the form/from issue in the context of the sentence. But, what if a word is missing and the sentence still makes sense?

Here’s one example, admittedly, quite an old one, but it demonstrates the impact of missing a word and completely changing the meaning of the sentence! This would not be picked up by a spellchecker: only a human eye could spot that (I presume the 17th century proofreader in this case was executed…).

Another consideration is that modern word-processing software will auto-correct. People often spell definitely as definately (or even defiantly!) but the software changes it and so one does not realise the mistake made. That’s great, isn’t it?

Well, firstly, you never learn you’re making the mistake and it creeps into your handwriting as well; secondly, what if it auto-corrects to something else? (When typing this, it changed a mistyping of throw to through – and this was only spotted when it was proofread by a human being!)

One last point on spellcheckers. They tend to default to US English and so wouldn’t pick up spellings such as realize, obligated and fetus. These spellings are creeping in to UK English as a result.

Why should I punctuate? People will surely know what I mean!

The shame is people won’t. It’s (**) why punctuation was developed. Go back far enough in time and there is no punctuation, but as more people learnt to read and more copies of text were available, writers and printers would add notations to aid the reading. These notations would highlight pauses and help give clarity over meaning.

Here’s a good example (and there are many if you search online):

Charles the First walked and talked half an hour after his head was chopped off

Do we mean he was walking and talking after his decapitation? That seems a nonsense, but it is one way of reading the sentence and, in less enlightened times, could be believed as such. Let’s throw in some punctuation:

Charles the First walked and talked. Half an hour after, his head was chopped off.

Now it is clear what we mean: he walked and talked and then, later, his head was chopped off.

Punctuation’s power is clarity of meaning: something very important if you’re trying to sell something!

Even so, surely it is just publishers that use proofreaders?

Not so, these days.

You may be a charity producing your Trustees’ Annual Report or a brochure to help generate donations; a business wishing to promote itself with leaflets; a financial adviser creating reports on a client’s finances; a student writing an essay, dissertation or thesis; a sport club producing a fixture book; or even a restaurant producing a menu.

And it isn’t just hard copy: websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media all promote you and your organisation, so it’s important to ensure that what you practise in hard copy written material transfers to the soft copy online.

And, of course, you may have read it through a few times yourself, but a proofreader provides a fresh, concentrated and independent pair of eyes.

I’m convinced! How can you help me?

A very good and sage question! My services range from a simple check of spelling and punctuation up to suggested edits/rewordings. I can also help you develop a ‘tone of voice’ and house style.

I will help with CVs, menus, essays, reports, leaflets, theses, even Christmas cards! Basically, if you plan to put something in writing in public (be it on paper or online) then I can review it.

Want to know more? Then contact me here.

This blog is based on a presentation made to Southend Peers, the borough’s premier networking group.

(*) There’s a prize (not really) for anyone that spots the errors in the article, criticising the original error…

(**) My spellchecker insisted this should be ‘Its’ until I added this footnote!

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordperfectVA.