Every officer should be familiar with and avoid the problem words on this list. Some are old-fashioned and unprofessional; others can cause errors.
This old-fashioned, time-wasting word needs to be stored permanently in the attic. Use “this” or, better yet, repeat the name or information.
The abovementioned suspect is now in custody. WRONG
Langford is now in custody. CORRECT
“Advise” refers to giving advice. If you use it that way, advise is a fine word. But don’t use it as a synonym for “tell.”
I advised her to seek medical attention for the cut on her arm. CORRECT
I advised her that I would be returning the next day. WRONG
I told her that I would be returning the next day. CORRECT
“Affect” is a useful verb meaning “to change.” [Much less commonly it’s also a noun that means emotion.] So why should you avoid affect? Two reasons.
First is the risk of confusing affect and effect. Why take a chance? If you mean change, that’s the word you should write.
I couldn’t affect his decision, so I stopped arguing. RISKY
I couldn’t change his decision, so I stopped arguing. BETTER
A more serious problem with affect is that it’s vague. It’s better to choose a word that indicates whether the change was for the better or the worse.
The new schedule affected morale. VAGUE
The new schedule improved morale. BETTER
Rainy days always affect my mood. VAGUE
Rainy days always make me feel gloomy. BETTER
“Yes” or “agreed” works better.
He answered in the affirmative. CLUMSY
He said yes. BETTER
He agreed. BETTER
This clumsy word has two strikes against it. First, it’s archaic. Second, it doesn’t explain how you acquired the information. Better choices are “saw” or “heard.”
At the present time
Use “now” instead–or just leave it out. There’s no difference between “He’s now awaiting trial” and “He’s awaiting trial.”
Baker Acted (as in “I Baker Acted him.”)
This is police jargon and out of place in a professional report. Substitute “I started Baker Act proceedings” or “I took her into custody under the provisions of the Baker Act.”
Never use this clumsy expression. Use because instead.
[Incidentally, being is a perfectly good word that can, however, gum up a sentence. Use it with care.]
Blue in color
Professional writers avoid empty words. “In color” doesn’t add anything, so don’t use it.
The suspect was wearing a shirt that was blue in color. EMPTY WORDS
The suspect was wearing a blue shirt. BETTER
By means of
This is too vague for a professional report. In fact it could cause problems in court later on, if you forget exactly how you got in touch with the person. Be specific:
I phoned her. CORRECT
I visited him. CORRECT
I emailed her. CORRECT
I taped a note to his office door. CORRECT
Substitute “hurry” or “speed up.”
For the purpose of
I smelled alcohol on his breath
A defense attorney can get you on this one. Alcohol is odorless and tasteless. Say that you smelled “alcoholic beverage” on his breath.
If and when
Substitute “if,” which covers both words.
In close proximity to
In order to
Vague. Use home, condominium, apartment, mobile home.
The month of September
Same problem. When is September not a month?
They were married in the month of September. EMPTY WORDS
They were married in September. BETTER