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Discussing the Four Characteristics of a Well Written Report

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Submitted By GGrant18
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– Criminal Investigation
Lesson 4 – Surveillance, Records, and Reporting
9/17/2012

In this paper I will be discussing the four characteristics of a well-written report. As well as what makes them critical to writing a report. The four characteristics are completeness, conciseness, clarity, and accuracy. As stated in the textbook “A report may contain all the necessary information, but if it is poorly written, points may be lost in the prose” (P.189). Simply put, if it doesn’t contain all the key elements your report could otherwise become useless. The first characteristic of a well written report is its completeness. “Completeness means that the report contains all pertinent information” (P.190). Officers have a series of questions they should ask themselves before handing in a report to make sure that it is complete. Reports should contain any and all relevant information so that your report leaves no open questions whether it by a fellow officer or the court. Having all the necessary information in the report will show what actions were taken and it helps to avoid wasted time and effort of having to do it all over again. E-mail addresses have become important in report writing since it is the easiest way to deliver a statement to an officer. “An Added Benefit is that e-mail interviews can be printed out and attached to the supplementary report” (P.190). The importance of the completeness of a written report is crucial due to it needing every detail that was crucial to the investigation. The next characteristic of a well written report is its conciseness. “Reports should be as concise as possible while retaining all essential features and details in an understandable manner” (P.190). This characteristic is as simple as keep it as short, simple, and detailed as much as possible. The longer a written report is the more difficult it may get to follow. “Long, convoluted sentences are confusing and sometimes difficult to follow” (Frazee & Davis 2004). Long drawn out sentences can usually be broken down by keeping key descriptive words and condensing it down to as few words as possible. The importance of written reports conciseness is due to it needing to be in as few words as possible but still carrying key details. The third characteristic of a well written report is its clarity. “A report must exhibit clarity; that is, it must clearly explain exactly what the officer saw, hear, and did” (P. 190). Although reports should be short, how clear and detailed they are is what makes it useful in court when on trial. “Clarity can best be accomplished by use of Standard English, including good sentence structure, correct punctuation, accurate spelling, proper capitalization, and standard paragraphing” (P.191). The importance of written reports clarity is it needing to be detailed as possible, all while being short and to the point as well.
The Last characteristic and that I feel is the most important to a written report is its accuracy. “Reports must display accuracy to be valuable” (P.191). The key to a suspect’s fate whether he be guilty or innocent lies with how accurate an officer report is. Factual information should be on the report rather than hearsay, due to it being more reliable in court. If hearsay or opinion is taken down, it must be stated that it is opinion or hearsay. Reports should also be written in a neutral, non-sexist, profanity free form, as not to make the suspect look in a negative way in court. As is it was stated in the text “Describing a suspect in an inappropriate manner or giving unsolicited opinions can taint this aspect of the due process” (P.191). The importance of written reports accuracy is it is what the suspect’s fate relies on.
In conclusion, the four characteristics of a well written report are all key elements that an officer needs to remember in order for it to be valuable in the court of law. By leaving out one characteristic a whole report can become useless and can make a guilty person seem innocent. Officers can make their report writing more effective just by practice and following the simple rules.

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