If you’re an instructor or supervisor who often comes across errors when you read police reports, today’s post is for you.
The bad news is that many of those errors are caused by diction problems. The good news is that the problem is easy to solve.
Diction refers to the language choices that people make. Right off the bat that explanation might sound strange to you. Words fill our days, and most of those words come out of our mouths automatically. We rarely slow down and think about choices in everyday conversation.
And that’s the problem!
When officers write badly, it’s often because they’re carrying their conversational habits over to their reports: “didn’t have none,” “him and I,” “I seen,” and so on.
But there’s an easy remedy. Most people have had plenty of exposure to Standard English through school, television, radio, movies, and so on. If they stop to think about what they’ve just said or written, they’ll pick up the mistake right away.
It all comes down to who’s in charge. If you’re an instructor or supervisor who fixes all the mistakes yourself, officers have little reason to slow down and write more carefully. But if you hand back the offending report and insist on a rewrite without the mistakes, you’ll soon start seeing better reports.
You get what you ask for!
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Criminal Justice Report Writing by Jean Reynolds
“It will definitely help you with your writing skills.” – Joseph E. Badger, California Association of Accident Reconstructionists Newsletter