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  • Report Writing

    If I'm repeating something, I apologize. I didn't see any threads on this, but may have missed it.

    Are there any on-line sources to help teach proper report writing? I'm having some difficulty with my evening officer. The content of the reports is great, the problem is the grammar and spelling are awful. (ie We was patrolled the garage and seen some skateborders.) Instead of "drawer" she writes "draw," "surpose" for "suppose," etc. In one report she stated the "drinking fossils" do not work . I'm not making that up.

    She's a great officer in every other aspect, and I think she's shift-lead material at some point in the future. But, not being an English teacher, I don't know how to teach her when to use is, are, was, were. Am I being too picky, or should I tackle this? Any suggestions on how? I worry that the quality of her reports could call into question the quality of security provided, especially in a lawsuit, etc.
    That's a direct quote. Not word for word, but the gist of it.

  • #2
    Hmmm, a tough one especially if, as you say, she's an otherwise great officer.

    Maybe, suggest she seek out an English tutor or have her study sample reports of various types of incidents and have her rewrite them from her own point of view. I've worked in several juvenile group homes and I understand the difficulty of explaining how to read and write properly, but in this field, it's imperative she learn how to properly write shift/incident reports.

    I don't envy you.
    ‎"If you can't tolerate humor directed at you, you do not deserve to be taken seriously"

    Comment


    • #3
      OfficerChick:
      There is indeed another rather exhaustive thread on this subject. Cutting to the chase, suggest you obtain Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers or one like it written by an establshed Australian author. You might let your friend see you using this writers manual; hopefully from your example, she'll get it in gear.
      Enjoy the day,
      Bill

      Comment


      • #4
        If her grammar is that poor, it will be some time before you can consider her for the position of shift leader. Her inability to communicate properly will always overshadow her better skills when others interact with her, whether the client or first responders. (Police, FD, EMS)

        She can always advance after mastering basic writing skills.
        Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

        Comment


        • #5
          We have a few officers with poor grammer skills. Drives me nuts. We use IPC's stupid online reporting system (even though we are not IPC):

          www.ipcstatsreporting.com

          You need username & password to log in. Once the officers hit "Submit Incident for Approval," its up to us supervisors to make the changes as needed to it.

          I miss the old format we had that made each officer responsible for their own report and all we had to do was proof-read it. Plus, the time it took to get to mall office was alot faster then now.

          We have to start our reports the following way:

          On (date) at approximately (military time), I (name)....

          We also have to put down who in management was notified, etc.
          "I am not a hero. I am a silent guardian, a watchful protector"

          Comment


          • #6
            Officerchick,
            That's a tough problem. You have to be sensitive to the feelings of the employee when correcting her yet you want to get the point across that there must be some improvement.
            The best report writing training I received was when working as a Corrections Officer with La Dept of Corrections. Every time COs witness an infraction, every time they discipline or handle an inmate or do anything out of the ordinary, it's written down. Reports are legal documents and can be used in court against inmates or staff so they must be done to a high standard every time.
            Here are a few hints to help that I learned in training and over several years of writing up inmates.
            Make a rough draft. Grab a pencil and pad and put down the necessary information, working out how you are going to word your report. Make certain that you have all of the names of people and descriptions of what happened; Be specific about the dates and times events occurred. Don't include opinion, conjecture or speculation. Leave emotion out of the report. Sentences which begin "The subject thought..." or "The subject felt..." need to be removed. You are not a mind reader. Just include the facts: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW AND WHY. Don't contract words. Write "do not" instead of "don't" and "they are" instead of "they're" unless quoting someone. When quoting someone write down exactly what they said. Don't censor anything because your report may be used in a legal setting. If the subject told you to "Eat crap and die, rentacop" then write exactly that on your report. Don't use "10" codes or abbreviations since these may be company specific and will cause confusion to readers not familiar with your post. Write your report as if it were to be read by a random person on the the street. Be specific, avoid colloquial or industry-specific phrasing.
            Keep a Dictionary and Thesaurus within reach at all times when writing reports. During my years at the prison I noticed these two books on nearly every office or cubical desk. When writing your rough draft take the time to check your spelling.
            If the rough draft looks good do a first version. Yes, it's probably not going to be what you turn in but hang with me for a minute. Base this report on your rough draft including spelling changes, alterations to sentence structure and paragraph placement.
            When you are finished with this version, read over it closely and then hand it to another Officer to read over. This could be your partner or another trusted person. What you are doing is letting a fresh set of eyes look at what you put on paper. You want someone who can read your narrative and understand what happened without having been there. Letting your Supervisor look it over is also a good idea at this point as long as he/she understands that it's not a finished report. Now is their chance to see what you have on paper and ask for details or have you change specific phrases. Make notes as they critique your report. Don't be offended or upset with anything the person checking it points out. This will be where someone notices that the water "fossils" are broken or where you wrote that you "arrived on seen" instead of "on scene".
            In nearly 7 years working behind bars I rarely had a supervisor read over a report and not want some changes made. At my Security job I've had some good help in the form of the plant Scale Operators who work in our building. I walk down the hall and let them read over my report. One Scale Op was a supervisor with our Guard service before getting on as a plant employee several years ago. Another Scale Op had owned a private security service for a few years and was the security supervisor for a local chemical plant. He was great about pointing out any changes which needed to be made to my reports.
            OK, you have had your report looked over. The other person says "Man, I wasn't even here when it happened but now I feel like I was". Sit down, and neatly write out your final version of the report on the official paperwork. Print neatly. Don't write in cursive script. (<- this is probably why I can't write in cursive today. I grew up visiting my dad at the police station after school and watching him write reports. Wanting to be like my dad I started printing everything in grade school and now can't write any other way.) Swap your pencil for a ball point pen. Turning in a report in pencil is a no-no since changes could be made after it leaves your hands.
            Once you have everything finished and you are ready to turn in your report, STOP. Find the nearest copy machine. Print a copy of the report for your personal file cabinet at home. If your original report is somehow lost you will have your copy which you can use if necessary.
            Up until now I've talked about writing out your reports by hand. Many agencies use typed reports done on computer. If you are lucky enough to be doing reports over the keyboard many of the same suggestions I made will still apply. Use a program such as Wordpad to write your draft and first version in this form. Use the spell check and dictionary programs on your computer to make sure everything is correct. If possible, save a copy and print it out for another person to read over. Note any changes which you have to make and then SAVE your final version in a file or on paper. Both if possible. Then submit your final report to your supervisor per your company SOP. Put your personal paper copy somewhere safe at home.
            My post has paper forms for Special Incidents reporting. They are meant to be filled out by hand in ink. Over the past couple of years my Site Supervisor, another Security Officer and I have begun doing our reports on our laptops. We use Microsoft Word to type out our reports mimicking the same headers and paragraph style as the official reports. We then connect our laptops to the copier in the security office via USB cable. Our laptops have the software which the copier uses (one of us "acquired" a copy of the software disk when the copier arrived) and we are able to print from our personal computers.
            I make 3 paper copies of each report. One copy goes in the file drawer in the office. The second copy is attached to the pertinent page of the logbook so following shifts can review it as part of their pass-on for the day. The third paper copy goes home with me for my personal "CYA" file. I SAVE a copy to a file in My Documents on my laptop also.

            I hope this has helped. Yes it was long but I was trying to cram in about a decade of report writing experience and advice. I'm sure I left out a few things and others will jump in here to make corrections. I expect that I may get a comment about the time it takes to do the rough draft and first draft before doing a final copy to submit. I can only say that based on my training and experience this has been the way that worked best. I usually point out that having a report kicked back for spelling or other mistakes will take as much time to rewrite as doing the rough draft and first version would have taken.
            By the way, before I hit the Submit Reply button for this post I ran spell check and then had my Grammar Nazi Girlfriend check it.
            I followed my own advice (but didn't take all of hers.)
            Hospital Security Officer

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mr. Security View Post
              If her grammar is that poor, it will be some time before you can consider her for the position of shift leader. Her inability to communicate properly will always overshadow her better skills when others interact with her, whether the client or first responders. (Police, FD, EMS)

              She can always advance after mastering basic writing skills.
              I disagree. French is the offical language of Quebec. I can speak & read it but can not write it for the life of me. (Quebec law changed about 2 years after I graduated high school. English kids now-a-days can usually read & write both languages.) I am still Supervisor for 3 hotels!
              I enforce rules and regulations, not laws.
              Security Officers. The 1st First Responders.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by HotelSecurity View Post
                I disagree. French is the offical language of Quebec. I can speak & read it but can not write it for the life of me. (Quebec law changed about 2 years after I graduated high school. English kids now-a-days can usually read & write both languages.) I am still Supervisor for 3 hotels!
                You're FIRED!
                Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Ha Ha Ha Mr Security - I just spat coffee everywhere.

                  I had an old school bloke who hated typing as he was unable to do it well enough. He would summarise his whole report into 10 lines (all relevant facts and details and included all witnesses in the extra components). I was happy with it and so was he - short and concise.

                  I would grab some reports from the past and sit down with her if you can and just say - we need to get the facts straight and explain how she can improve from I SEEN 2 MAILS to I OBSERVED 2 MALE PERSONS. It will be frustrating but I sat with the previous S/O for 30 minutes before he started work every morning (I started earlier).

                  If these reports are being sent to external parties like insurance, police, clients, etc it is going to reflect back on the whole team and hurt her circumstances for promotion of continuing in her position. Perhaps get her to do the component in Word which can be spell and grammar checked before cut and pasting back into the report.
                  "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" Sun Tzu

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bill Warnock View Post
                    OfficerChick:
                    There is indeed another rather exhaustive thread on this subject. Cutting to the chase, suggest you obtain Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers or one like it written by an establshed Australian author. You might let your friend see you using this writers manual; hopefully from your example, she'll get it in gear.
                    Enjoy the day,
                    Bill
                    Excellent idea Bill - I have one myself.
                    Retail Security Consultant / Expert Witness
                    Co-Author - Effective Security Management 6th Edition

                    Contributor to Retail Crime, Security and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Curtis, that Manual has been with me, throughout all the updates since I can't remember when and it has served me well.
                      When you give an in-briefing, you have had the time to prior to site visit to write down what you plan to say. At the out-briefing, you had best have the proper tools with you or be prepared to become the laughing stock of your trade.
                      Another neat thing to have with you is a dictionary. I went from vest pocket, to briefcase to Franklin.
                      I was once hired to rewrite a report that four "learned" security brethern had made into a pig's breakfast.
                      Thanks for the kind words.
                      Enjoy the day,
                      Bill

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        With the advent of electronic diaries, PDA's, online thesauruses, etc I cannot understand how such major typing errors can occur in reports. New immigrants may struggle with the language but to be honest this should not happen. I found my old HighSchool Dictionary which rides shot gun with me in my desk (old Oxford edition) and my 99 cent thesaurus from the same year 1985 which still hides in my desk. I also rely on my PDA's dictionary if I am stumped and do not have access to an online dictionary.

                        As it was posted before, your report is telling a story and it must be informative and contain all relevant facts. A non-person should be able to pick it up and read it clearly so they KNOW what happened and the consequences as well. It takes practice but being an old school bloke it was drummed into our heads through company training with the old boys watching over us. Now it is a longer training course (7 days compared to 2 when I started) and people still cannot use a radio or type a report when they graduate.
                        "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" Sun Tzu

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The written report is prepared in a fashion to be an effective management tool. The content of the report, as illustrated in the Table of Contents below, is organized by function. It is to be written in a language and a style easily and clearly understood by the prospective reader. It consists of consecutively numbered Observations and consecutively lettered Recommendations. If additional clarifications are necessary, Discussion paragraphs will be added. Again, this report is not to contain mellifluous platitudes, meaningless catch phrases or tinctured by personal bias. Be ever mindful of these two Latin sayings: Veritas odium parit. Truth begets hatred. Veritas simplex oratio est. The language of truth is simple.
                          Enjoy the day,
                          Bill

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            While dictionaries are excellent reference material I don't like to rely on them too heavily, for example the Collin's Pocket Dictionary (published 2003) doesn't even list psychological!

                            Seeing as you're the Supervisor OC, to raise standards will take more than mere helpful suggestions & guidance IMHO, after sitting down & reassuring her (privately) she's one of your best officers, go onto explain what you need/want/desire to improve report writing within the organisation, then simply request she submit all her reports to you prior to lodgement.

                            Once you have said reports, edit, correct & structure to your required standard & then explain/demonstrate (privately) what you now want/expect from her report writing skills, reassure your officer that this will be expected from ALL employees and that she hasn't been singled out... you could (depending on your success) have her assist you in this pursuit once she has reached your desired writing standard/style

                            Hope that helps
                            "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give" - Winston Churchill

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                            • #15
                              Thank you all for the suggestions. Fortunately, and much to her credit, this officer is willing to be critiqued and make corrections. She even laughed at herself when I pointed out the "drinking fossil" mistake. She immediately makes all corrections I suggest, and seems genuinely interested in learning.

                              I do try always to remember to tell her that her work is great, and that the content of the report is good, but the structure needs help. We recently got a new computer, so she has been doing her reports in Word, which has helped. I've been telling her that I'm becoming more picky and demanding now because I can, since so far she's taken everything I've thrown at her.

                              One of these days they're going to hook up my printer (they've been saying that for most of a year ). Once that happens, I plan to print off some security-related articles (Security Management, No Nonsense Self Defense), etc, and give "reading assignments." I'm hoping that exposure to professionally written documents will help.

                              EMTGuard, I agree that working for the corrections system is one of the best ways to learn report writing. My first "real' job was as a CO for TDCJ. I worked for the State a second time, and did a number of residential-treatment center jobs in between. I warn all officers that I train that I take documentation very seriously, and that I will make them rewrite reports when necessary. I even had one guard tell me that I was a "turrible" supervisor because I am too concerned with details and documentation. I can't think of a higher compliment he could have paid me!
                              That's a direct quote. Not word for word, but the gist of it.

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