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Chad Fabry

A little help please

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I'm presenting at KREIA this fall and I need to do 3 hours on report writing. Truthfully, I could probably find enough material in my own reports (both good and bad) to use, but it'd be way better if some of you shared a report or two with me.  I have a lot of confidence in this group's abilities and skills. 

I will cleanse your content and redact any identifying information for both you and your clients. 

If you would, please send them to me chad@structuresmart.com 

If you think it's too much trouble, think about about me... I have to read home inspection reports from people who are likely to be better writers than me.

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It might be constructive to base a portion of it on a writing style.  It doesn't have to be a fully developed one, the framework will do.  You'd have to create it, it's not in existence yet, AFAIK.

Another portion could be the SOP requirements in regard to written reports.  See Kentucky Revised Statutes 198B section 706 (13).  I did that recently for the Louisiana SOP.  Took about an hour.

Edited by Marc

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There are 3 sample reports on my website. A $60k house, a $160k house, and a $460k house. Actual reports for real clients, names and addresses already scrubbed. 

Clearcreekhomeinspection.com 

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Me again, I covered passive voice, basic punctuation, misplaced modifiers (thanks to Bonnie Trenga's book), third person and run-ons.

What common issues do you folks see that drive you nuts?

  

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46 minutes ago, Chad Fabry said:

Me again, I covered passive voice, basic punctuation, misplaced modifiers (thanks to Bonnie Trenga's book), third person and run-ons.

What common issues do you folks see that drive you nuts?

  

Lack of brevity.  Some people just go on and on.  They keep talking about the same issue in multiple ways.  They can't just state things simply and concisely.  They feel the need to hammer the issue in from many angles.  They just ramble forever about that which could be easily stated in one sentence.  They just go on and on and on. . .  

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Kurt's 'what is it, what does it mean and what to do about it' as a beginning format for writing up issues.

Also,  the subject word of the first sentence should be the issue itself, EX:

     The hinges on the front door are missing some screws.  NO

     Several screws are missing from the hinges of the front door.  YES

 

Edited by Marc

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57 minutes ago, Marc said:

     The hinges on the front door are missing some screws.  NO

     Several screws are missing from the hinges of the front door.  YES

 

I think a better approach is to first tell where the problem is:

"Up in the SE corner of the attic, there is . . ."

Down at the middle of the rear basement wall, there is . . ."

I didn't always used to do that, but I think Katen does, and that's good enough fer me.

Edited by Jerry Simon
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2 hours ago, Jerry Simon said:

I think a better approach is to first tell where the problem is:

"Up in the SE corner of the attic, there is . . ."

Down at the middle of the rear basement wall, there is . . ."

I didn't always used to do that, but I think Katen does, and that's good enough fer me.

The 'what it is, what does it mean, what to do about it' is just a starting point.  Most of my smaller write-ups are exactly like that.

On occasion some preparation is needed up front to guide the reader to what we're about to talk about, and that's fine.

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Well, it's not sexy, but spelling is important. An occasional typo is no big deal, but nothing in your boilerplate should be misspelled and you should never misspell construction terms that might not be part of the customers' vocabulary; when they go to look them up, they'll be baffled. There's just no excuse for a report that talks about "rusting lentils" and "lathe & plaster." It makes you look like a dumb hick.  (And if there's more than one furnace, don't call one of them the "principle furnace" unless it has high moral standards.) 

I'd also focus on getting rid of what I call "mushy mush mush" report writing, "It was observed that the roof is older than it's average condition and might or might not perform satisfactorily over the course of its remaining service life, which it might or might not have exceeded. Hire an expert licensed roofing specialist to advise." (Taken verbatim from an actual report.) Strive to tell the customer exactly what the problem is and exactly what to do about it. 

Avoid word salad. Use clear words. Don't say, "Debris between the deck treads can facilitate rot." Deck treads? Facilitate rot? Who the heck speaks like that?  Here's another, "Confined spaces were inaccessible." What this mean?  Why might it be important? What should the customer do about it? 

One of my favorites: Have any rot in the deck removed and replaced. (Where can I find some "replacement rot"? ) 

 

 

 

 

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You don't want one of my reports. I write full-narrative and it's guaranteed to put you to sleep - especially if you're brain has been conditioned to social media where you are limited to posts less than 148 characters and you've developed too short of an attention span.

What Jim calls "mushy mush mush" report writing I call inspectorspeak because it pervades this profession.

There should be a dark room somewhere staffed with hundreds of retired fifth grade English teachers sitting in front of computer screens. Every home inspection report created anywhere on the planet should have to be emailed to them for proof-reading and correction before being sent out to clients. This profession's reputation and respectability quotient would see a huge uptick if that were the case. The geezer English teachers would probably appreciate it too.

Like Jim, I like to write like I speak - even if the bluntness of it shocks the crap out of all agents present and sets their teeth on edge. More than one report I've sent out said something like, "The deck stairs look like they were constructed by a fourth grader who watched one episode of This Old House," or something similar. Tell it like it is and don't mince words.

One of the advantages of never sucking up to agents for referrals is that you can get away with that kind of s**t and the phone will still continue to ring, 'cuz it will be past clients and their friends, relatives and co-workers calling you most of the time instead of agents. Oh yeah, and your hair, or at least what's left of it, will gray more slowly - hah!

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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3 hours ago, hausdok said:

You don't want one of my reports. I write full-narrative and it's guaranteed to put you to sleep - especially if you're brain has been conditioned to social media where you are limited to posts less than 148 characters and you've developed too short of an attention span.

What Jim calls "mushy mush mush" report writing I call inspectorspeak because it pervades this profession.

There should be a dark room somewhere staffed with hundreds of retired fifth grade English teachers sitting in front of computer screens. Every home inspection report created anywhere on the planet should have to be emailed to them for proof-reading and correction before being sent out to clients. This profession's reputation and respectability quotient would see a huge uptick if that were the case. The geezer English teachers would probably appreciate it too.

Like Jim, I like to write like I speak - even if the bluntness of it shocks the crap out of all agents present and sets their teeth on edge. More than one report I've sent out said something like, "The deck stairs look like they were constructed by a fourth grader who watched one episode of This Old House," or something similar. Tell it like it is and don't mince words.

One of the advantages of never sucking up to agents for referrals is that you can get away with that kind of s**t and the phone will still continue to ring, 'cuz it will be past clients and their friends, relatives and co-workers calling you most of the time instead of agents. Oh yeah, and your hair, or at least what's left of it, will gray more slowly - hah!

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Mike has the most well-organized report of any I've ever seen.  It's unsurpassed.

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The best piece of report writing advice I've come across in a long time comes from this article from The Atlantic magazine from April of this year.  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/what-makes-candidate-authentic/587857/

The article is mostly about politicians trying to sound authentic, but the ideas translate well to many different professions.  Basically the idea is that the more authentic you sound the more you're believed.

Quote:

In a paper published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the academics Rachel Gershon and Rosanna K. Smith described the results of a variety of tests showing that listeners perceived speakers to be less authentic when they were told that the speakers were repeating themselves. Self-repetition, they argue, “confronts observers with the performative nature of the interaction” and challenges our assumption that “social interactions, even those that are typically performed and repeated, are assumed to be unique.”

In other words, we’re wired to assume that all speech is extemporaneous. When that assumption is revealed to be false, we penalize the speaker. This is true, the authors found, even in contexts where it makes no sense to expect speakers not to repeat themselves, such as listening to a tour guide or a stand-up comic.      End Quote

I don't really even know how oral speech and written reports might contrast in this respect.  But to me, this helps make the case that referring someone to a "qualified roofing professional" is a bad idea.  Referring them to a "good roofer" is a good idea.

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On 9/16/2019 at 1:46 PM, Marc said:

Mike has the most well-organized report of any I've ever seen.  It's unsurpassed.

Thanks for the compliment, Marc, but I, frankly, don't think my reports can't hold a candle to Jim Katen's. 

I'm in awe of that guy's ability.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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On 9/16/2019 at 10:01 PM, SNations said:

The best piece of report writing advice I've come across in a long time comes from this article from The Atlantic magazine from April of this year.  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/what-makes-candidate-authentic/587857/

The article is mostly about politicians trying to sound authentic, but the ideas translate well to many different professions.  Basically the idea is that the more authentic you sound the more you're believed.

Quote:

In a paper published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the academics Rachel Gershon and Rosanna K. Smith described the results of a variety of tests showing that listeners perceived speakers to be less authentic when they were told that the speakers were repeating themselves. Self-repetition, they argue, “confronts observers with the performative nature of the interaction” and challenges our assumption that “social interactions, even those that are typically performed and repeated, are assumed to be unique.”

In other words, we’re wired to assume that all speech is extemporaneous. When that assumption is revealed to be false, we penalize the speaker. This is true, the authors found, even in contexts where it makes no sense to expect speakers not to repeat themselves, such as listening to a tour guide or a stand-up comic.      End Quote

I don't really even know how oral speech and written reports might contrast in this respect.  But to me, this helps make the case that referring someone to a "qualified roofing professional" is a bad idea.  Referring them to a "good roofer" is a good idea.

My most satisfying jobs are the ones when the client follows me like a dog on my heels and listens to my verbal description.  Almost all of that kind like me better.  I do take pride in my writing, but the verbal delivery feels to me like a job better done.

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18 hours ago, Jim Baird said:

My most satisfying jobs are the ones when the client follows me like a dog on my heels and listens to my verbal description.  Almost all of that kind like me better.  I do take pride in my writing, but the verbal delivery feels to me like a job better done.

I am with you Jim!  I am not the best writer, but I am a pretty damn good talker! 

 

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