The other day, I ran into a good friend and asked how her nine-year-old daughter –
Mary” – was doing. My friend grinned and told me about an incident that morning. “Mary” had breathlessly started talking about a new friend, and the coming weekend, and a spelling test…words were tumbling out, with no apparent destination or purpose.
Mary was covering up her nervousness with a blizzard of words.
My friend quickly caught on: “Mary” was going to ask permission to do something unusual, and she was afraid Mom was going to say no. There was a happy ending: Mary will be having a sleepover with her new friend.
What does this have to do with police officers? A lot. I often see reports that are swollen with unnecessary words and information. When I talk to the writer, I get a sheepish smile. The officer admits that they were nervous about writing the report and hoped a blizzard of words would cover up any problems.
Here’s an important principle for you: More doesn’t always mean better. In police writing, more words often add up to wasted time for you and everyone who reads your reports. Another problem is that more words often lead to more mistakes.
Compare the examples below:
Stay out of the blizzard!