The Usefullness of Tickmarks

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I was standing over the shoulder watching somebody add up some sport statistics … and I said … “Don’t forget to Cross-Foot it!”

He looked at me like I was nuts .. It was then that I remembered that not everybody is familiar with HART’s Tickmark Terminology

(okay .. did you look? That phrase is not part of ~ YET ~ but one day! Some day! lol)

To familiarize yourself with HART’s Tickmark Terminology, I have replicated my favorite tickmarks and scanned them and provided a little example how I would use that tickmark. Now, I will elaborate further and describe when I would use this tickmark. Please keep in mind that everybody has their own tickmarks, and these are just HART’s favorites.


Tickmarks are used to indicate that some work was performed, usually in a different color, and give the reader confidence that some action related to that tickmark was done. They do not have to always be the same look or use all of the time, but generally it is best to be consistent with the using of your tickmarks. It helps to always document and identify the tickmarks that you are using in your working papers (or on other source data). Some usually just place the descriptions at the bottom of a working paper in the left side (because the right side is normally used to label the working paper). When I would be working on formal audit engagements, I would usually recap all of my tickmarks on the first page of each section so the reviewer would know what each mark meant as they would review the section.

I have scanned the tickmarks that I use, so feel free to click on them and look at the graphic while you are reading the below descriptions of how and why and where I would use these tickmarks. Please also keep in mind that while I have made up most of these names, but some do exist! In most cases, all are currently in use – perhaps even by your own accountant! Clicking on the following graphics will bring it into a new window.

* TICKMARK – This would be the general mark I use for most checking of source documents to other source documents. For instance, checking to see the cancelled cheques from the bank statements .. I would “tickmark” both the amount on the bank statement and also my printout list, if I were comparing what has cleared the bank.

* TICK – I would use this as my second most general mark, which I use to denote that I have looked at that number. It doesn’t necessarily means that I compared it to any other number. However, I tend to use these when I am reconciling bank statements. For those cheques dated PRIOR to the current month, I would just “tick” the cheques dated previous month and cleared the current month.

* DOUBLE TICK – I normally reserve the use of this tick to denote cheques that cleared in the current month that were dated longer than one month. The “double tick” would be used for cheques dated two months ago. I also would have a “triple tick” if the cheque was dated three months ago .. and so on, and so on.

* FOOT – This is the figure that I use to denote that I have added the immediate column of numbers above it. For instance, if I add up all of column (A) and then compared it to the printed total and it agreed, I would use this symbol. While this looks like your upper shift 6 on the computer keyboard, I normally have the right side longer than the left side. I suppose if I was left handed, I might do it in reverse.

* CROSS FOOT – This is the figure that I use to denote that two or more figures add up sideways to another total. For instance, if I added up columns (A) and (B) and “foot” them both, then I add the totals and foot the footed totals, and the numbers agreed, then I have “cross footed” the numbers. This helps show that all extensions were extended correctly.

* TICKMARK WITH A TICK (or) OOPS! I HAD TO DOUBLE CHECK THESE! – Sometimes, with the interuptions that can happen during a normal workday (phone, door, TV, music, blogging, pets, etc) it is possible that you might make mistakes and have to double check your figures. The way I do this, is to just put a reverse tick on the end of the tickmark. This could also work when double checking “ticks” and “double ticks” besides on “tickmarks”.

* CHECKMARK (or) AGREES – I usually reserve my checkmarks for either directly comparing two objects or figures, to show that “these figures agree” or “these figures are correct”. Perhaps I will put it somewhere around the bottom and right side to show that “this page works” or “this page is complete”. I might also use this tickmark to show that I recalculated the figures .. e.g. to prove that an invoice $100.00 plus pst plus gst really was $114.00 etc etc.

* ZERO WITH A HORIZONTAL LINE THROUGH IT (or) HERO – I like this tickmark, because it doesn’t look like any other tickmark. Even for myself and my own working papers, where nobody is reviewing my own work, I always 100% describe at the bottom of the working paper what this symbol represents. For instance, I might use this to denote that a cheque on the outstanding cheque list has not cleared the bank since the year end, or to denote that I reviewed signatures on all the cheques, they were all approved signatures, and no exceptions. Stuff like that.

* ZERO WITH A VERTICAL LINE THROUGH IT (or) VERO – Same thing as above, on a similar thought, but different topic. I always describe what this tick mark, if seen, represents.

* X (or) EX (or) NOT – I would use this in two situations … for something that doesn’t belong or does not agree to another source … or, when I am sick of using tickmarks or ticks – I’ll just use “x” instead! Of course, if you do not have a really fine point pencil or pen I do not suggest using it – especially if your pen is leaky.

* CHECKMARK WITH A TICK ON IT (or) NOT AGREES – I usually use this when comparing my calculation to other calculations, and doesn’t necessarily mean that the number is wrong. For instance, testing calculations of prepaid expenses when the client uses a rough calculation 1/12 of $1200 = $100 .. when, it might be consistent to use 31/365 x $1200 = $101.92 … stuff like that more or less shows that I did recalculate the figure.

* DOUBLE TICK WITH A STROKE THROUGH IT (or) TRACK – The “track” as I like to call it is like a number sign, but with only one vertical line. I would probably be describing it’s meaning at the bottom of the list, after all other tickmarks that I have come up with are used.

* TROOK – Again, similar to the “track” .. when I need more tickmarks to describe things .. except that while it’s also like a number sign, it only has one horizontal line

* CIRCLE – I use the circle to get my attention. For instance, when I am reconciling the bank I will tick off the cheques to the bank statement in the order they were delivered with the bank statements, and the non-cheque or ‘bank statement items’ such as withdrawals, debit memo’s, loan payments, pre-authorized stuff, bank charges, etc etc .. I would circle the number. (As an off-topic note, after I tick off all cheques from the bank statements, I like to sort the cheques in numerical order for future readability in case I have to trace a cheque down)

* CIRCLE WITH A TICK (or) GOT IT! – After I circle numbers or things that ‘get my attention’ .. I have to do something with it. I just tick the circle to let me know I took care of it – either booking the entry, recapping the bank statement item, locating an invoice, etc etc.

* LETTERS AND NUMBERS – There will never be a standardize reason to use these .. but because they might conflict with what you are checking, I circle all of mine, if used. I use the circled letters for exceptions, and will always provide more of a detailed description at the bottom of the page. I would use the circled numbers when I am trying to summarize a whole bunch of figures in a column, and want to group them into 3 or 4 different categories. I would say put e.g. a circled 1 next to all the repairs and maintenance figures, then add them up and at the bottom of the page I would put the circled 1 and the total next to it.

There! I hope that helps you with HART’s Tickmark Terminology, and that you find the above descriptions useful in your accounting and bookkeeping adventures .. so next time you are reading my blog entries (or listening to my awful jokes) and slip in a “tickmark” reference … you will smile and say .. “I know what he meant! I get it!”


Dmitri says:

Thank you. Very good source from a pro.

Ben says:

Hart, this is common “audit” terminology, at least it was in the U.S., in the 80’s (when I was an auditor).

The symbols we used were a little different. Sometimes we used letters inside circles (like the copyright symbol) like footnotes.

I would have stayed in the profession but for the fact that I was just getting tired of abusive clients, and lousy managers.

– Ben

[…] This post was originally posted February 21, 2006 on the 1800HART Blog […]

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