What should you do if you’re an officer who has an uneasy feeling that your writing needs improvement? Or if you’re an instructor or a supervisor who’s worried about a recruit or officer’s writing?
Many times the solution is simpler than you might think. Here are three pieces of advice that can go a long way to solving writing problems:
- Slow down.
- Seek out a writing partner.
Can these simple steps really make a difference? Yes. I’ve seen for myself how they can turn an officer’s writing around.
Still skeptical? Read on as I explain these three steps.
1. Slow down.
Many writing mistakes are the result of carelessness. I’ve read breathless reports with missing periods and capital letters. Reports written in a hurry are full of garbled sentences, spelling errors, and diction problems (“I seen blood on her blouse and called for a EMT”).
When I meet with the officers who make these errors, it’s obvious that they know better. Often there’s an embarrassed laugh when they see for the first time the kinds of reports they’ve been writing. Could those officers have caught – and fixed – the mistakes before submitting those reports? In most cases, the answer is yes.
Whenever possible, type your reports first in a word processor that can check your spelling and grammar. Use a dictionary if you get confused by word pairs like your/you’re, it’s/its. NEVER submit a report until you’ve checked to make sure it’s right. So…slow down!
You’re not in English class any more! Forget about the advanced vocabulary words and complicated sentences you tried to write in school. Police reports are supposed to be efficient and straightforward. That means short sentences that start with a person, place, or thing. You won’t need fancy punctuation, and you’ll avoid clumsy sentences and awkward syntax. Plain writing can help you avoid countless errors.
3. Seek out a writing partner.
A second pair of eyes can help you ensure an error-free report almost every time. Your writing partner doesn’t have to be an English whiz. Choose someone you trust who has a commitment to professionalism.
Writing partnerships are especially important if English isn’t your first language. Writing well isn’t just about rules: you need to master all the quirks that make English such an interesting language – and such a difficult one.
You’ll also need a writing partner if you had difficulty with writing assignments in school. Many people – not just officers! – find it hard to make the transfer from conversation to writing. A partner can show you how to fix awkward wording and how to avoid common mistakes.
And that’s it! Any officer can apply these three steps immediately – and quickly see a big improvement. Are you going to get started today?