The Scoop on Poop

Here’s a press release about a police report. After you’ve read it, scroll down to see how the report could be written more effectively.

The officer took a report by phone from a male caller regarding a littering complaint. He advised that since moving into his residence a month ago, he has had several instances of the neighbor’s dog defecating in his driveway.
He advised that he has not elected to report it until today. He advised the neighbor was out walking her dog and noticed after they were away from his residence that there was a pile of feces in the driveway. He advised he confronted her and asked her to keep her dogs out of his yard. He advised he wanted this incident to be on record for possible future use.

Did you spot the problems? One is the repeated use of advised instead of told. “Advise” should be saved for “counsel” or “give advice”:

He told me that he left work at 5:05.  CORRECT

I advised him to see a doctor.  CORRECT

Inefficiency is another problem. There’s a lot of repetition. “He advised….He advised….He advised….” You can  make a list of the facts – a great timesaver.

And the repeated use of “he” is confusing: Is “he” the caller…or the dog? And why “residence”? Always use the simplest word. In this case, it’s home.

Here’s a more professional rewrite. Notice that it includes a timesaving list:

The officer took a littering complaint by phone from a male caller. The caller said that since moving into his home a month ago, the neighbor’s dog had been defecating in his driveway. The caller finally decided to report it today.

The caller said:

    • he saw his neighbor was  walking her dog
    • there was a pile of feces in his driveway
    • he asked her to keep her dog out of his yard
    • he wanted this incident to be on record

The press release is 109 words long. The rewrite is 82 words long. Which is a better use of the writer’s time?

please clean up after your dog

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