Tips To Make Your Reports Outstanding

May 30, 2017

Tips To Make Your Reports Outstanding

by Ian D Scofield

In the past, I have mentioned that I spend a lot of time working with report writing/reviewing.  At the hospital, one of my tasks is report reviewing.  Having proper reports is, therefore, a major pet peeve of mine.  Let's take a look at what you can do to make your reports even better.

Identify Yourself

If you aren’t already identifying yourself in your reports, you should be.  It is easy for a reader who may have skipped every part but the narrative.  It also makes your report look more official.  Here is an example I will use a few times in this article:

At approximately XX:XX hours on 30 May 2017, I, Officer Ian Scofield, responded to a call from a nurse that there was a combative person on X floor of X tower.

First Person Narratives

Case reports should be written with first person narratives. Getting rid of the third person allows your reports to flow better and feel less awkward when being written.  It also helps to make it easily identifiable what actions you took and what actions others took.

Old policies from some departments still require you to write your reports in the third person and in those cases you will probably still have to.

It is okay to have the summary of your report in the third person, it is a brief encapsulation of what happened.  Even then though, it is best to have your report in first person.  I try to make the first sentence of my reports a summary.  For example:

At approximately XX:XX hours on 30 May 2017, I, Officer Ian Scofield, responded to a call from a nurse that there was a combative person on X floor of X tower.

Include All Of The Information

A lot of modern report writing software includes sections for digital media, contacts, property, and more.  Each one of these sections makes it even easier to leave things out of your report.  Make sure that you are including all of the information that is needed in your report.

In many cases, this makes reading the report easier and that is why it is so important.  More and more people are leaving out important facts such as the time while utilizing terms such as “the above date and time.”  This distracts the reader and that runs down the quality of the report.

Spell Check

Checking the spelling of all of your reports is incredibly important.  You don’t want to misspell something or use the wrong form of a word.

If your report writing software does not include spell check, copy and paste your narrative into Microsoft Word.  Don’t rely on the computer alone, also read over your report once or twice to make sure the computer doesn’t miss anything.

Spell It Out The First Time

The first time that you use any word you should spell it out.  You never know who might need to use your report, from the prosecutor to a person whose property was damaged.  So if I were going to talk about the emergency department in a report, the first time I would write Emergency Department (ED) and every time after that I would write ED.

The only exception to this is if an abbreviation is commonly known to the public such as “FBI” or if you are directly quoting someone.

Drop Fancy Formatting

There are plenty of fancy formatting options that officers have used in the past.  Fancy formatting can make a report hard to read and makes each report look different.  Here are some examples of formatting that can be done away with:

  • ALL CAPS
  • Three to four line breaks between paragraphs
  • Massive paragraphs
  • Line breaks for every sentence.

Stop The Cop Jargon

Police, Security, Fire, EMS, we all use a lot of specific terminology.  People who might be reading your report probably don’t know some of the jargon.  You want anyone reading your report to know exactly what you are talking about.  For example, a jury should be able to read your report to help increase the chance of conviction.

Reports are often considered to be an annoying part of the job, they take time away from being in the field.  Just because they can be annoying doesn’t mean that they aren’t vital.  Craft every report with the detail you would expect if you were a prosecutor.  Stay safe out there!

 About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at ian@iandscofield.com.





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