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On this one I converted to PDF and added pictures. The on line viewing format looks much better now. I also changed many of the comments to reflect a more narrative style. I have much more work to do in editing and adding comments to my lists. It is a challenge to construct comments in a narrative fashion and also have them structured in a way that they can be used in a broad range of circumstances. I see myself as probably always needing to fine tune a bit before printing or submitting reports. Anyway, I believe I have made some improvements thus far. I hope a few of you will agree. Still open to the critics. Below is the link to the new sample.

http://home.comcast.net/~mailmanusa/sample.pdf

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This particular report is the same template as the first one. Since exporting it from the PDA I have learned how to completely remove steps that are not applicable to a particular job. So future exports will not have so many "not present" comments. Instead those steps will be edited out all together. Since this one had already been exported prior to my learning the edit function, the "not present" remain in this sample. They wont be there in future reports.

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John,

The description of the heating system is very brief. No explanation of the type: funace, boiler, etc.

Electrical- No description of type of service: underground or overhead. No mention of voltage, only amps. You state that the SEC is #1 copper, but you don't even say if the branch circuit wiring is copper or aluminum.

I think it needs a lot of improvement.

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Originally posted by AHI

On this one I converted to PDF and added pictures. The on line viewing format looks much better now. I also changed many of the comments to reflect a more narrative style. I have much more work to do in editing and adding comments to my lists. It is a challenge to construct comments in a narrative fashion and also have them structured in a way that they can be used in a broad range of circumstances. I see myself as probably always needing to fine tune a bit before printing or submitting reports. Anyway, I believe I have made some improvements thus far. I hope a few of you will agree. Still open to the critics. Below is the link to the new sample.

http://home.comcast.net/~mailmanusa/sample.pdf

As a guy who has done HI work and has written for newspapers, books and shelter publications for 20+ years, let me gently explain:

Your HI report is much like many others, in that your writing is just plain hard to understand. It would be very hard to fix.

I know, not everybody has a gift or talent for writing, and most folks old enough to know how a house works don't have the time or inclination to start learning the writer's art.

Not to be harsh, but I think you have two reasonable options.

You can: (1) devote many hundreds of hours to learning how to write conversationally, use proper grammar, punctuation and syntax, and write so that you're never misunderstood.

Or, you can: (2) Find a way to report problems and cures with lots of pictures and very few words.

Whether you choose (1), (2), both or neither, let me suggest that you work hardest on your on-site "house-side manner." Make sure your customers understand the words coming out of your mouth, and make them love you. My HI buddy Charlie Wood called this giving the customers a case of "I-Love-Charlie Syndrome."

The best HI-writing teacher I know says that most HIs ought to just use a checklist. Personally, I hate checklists, I think they're kinda kindergarteny, and they make even really smart guys look dumb. But, unlike writing, which isn't for everybody, checklists are for just about everybody.

Again, not to be harsh, but... virtually all of the HI reports I've reviewed as part of litigation support (often against HI defendants) look and read much like your sample report. Such reports are written in what I call "InspectorSpeak," and they convey very little useful information. InspectorSpeak, which I believe was invented by Satan Himself, doesn't provide information. It destroys information. Often as not, InspectorSpeak ends up costing HIs a whole lot of money and headaches.

I hope others have better ideas.

Anyhow, hope that helps,

WJ

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I am not the worlds best writer myself as I have no patience for going back to edit my remarks if not necessary.

The idea of lots of pictures with tight captioning is a good one that I use myself.

Clients and others that see my reports love them.

It is all a matter of playing to your stenghths John.Go check out my style John and you will see a diferent way to convey info.

Some of these guys have been chiming in opinions on this board a long time and their use of verbage shows it.

In the short time of oh.. about 9 months my typing or writing skills have increased some and so will yours.

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John,

I can't give any better advice about your report because one of the best writers in this business has already done so, (BTW, that would be Walter).

But I can give you this: You have the opportunity right now to adapt and change your reporting methods based on the input of some of the best minds in this business via this web board.

I did not have this nine years ago. I have been re-writing boilerplate (I like to call it autotext) ever since and have spent hundreds of hours doing so. In fact, if I can figure out the time, I'm thinking of drastically revising my report format again!! I'm fortunate I haven't gotten in trouble from one of my piss-poor reports the first 5 or 6 years of my business. I guess I was at least good enough not to miss the important stuff and somehow communicated this to the client.

I know, I know, you want your reports to be unique. I'm also guessing you don't want to spend the dough on someone else's software. Just like me nine years ago.

I've been fighting an uphill battle ever since. To this day, every day, I'm changing my reporting method to reflect simplicity and clarity--just like Jowers, Katen, Mitenbuler, Cramer and others talk about. And I've never been more confident in my written product!!

So, maybe I do have some advice after all: spend your efforts being the best copy-cat in the biz. Just do what they say--exactly what they say. Don't fight it.

Doing that will set you apart from all the others because, ironically, everybody else is trying to re-invent the wheel and we've just got a bunch of squirelly wheels out there!!

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Thanks for the opinions everyone.

Walter, I am glad to hear you say it is important to come across as a likeable person to ones clients on sight. I think I am pretty good at that. As far as your opinions on "writing", I think it would be helpful if you could post an example of a report. Post one that you think is acceptable, or better yet, one that you think is good. Can you do that?

Pictures do say 1000 words and I plan to use them in greater numbers in future reports so that advice is well taken.

Neal, Thanks for picking off the lack of info in the heating and electrical sections. It is obvious you had to spend enough time actually reading through the entire report to catch those omissions. On the electrical part the options are on the check list but I just didnt select them.

In the heating section there is a lack of a step list for furnace info. I need to construct a step list for furnace types and fuels. Lets see, what should it include?

Heating system;

1. Oil

a. hot water

b. steam

c. radiant

d. forced air

2. Gas, either nautral or propane.

a. hot water

b. steam

c. radiant

d. forced air

3. Electrical

a. baseboard

b. forced air

4. Geothermal

a. ground

b. water source

5. Solar either passive or active

a. hot water

b. building orientation

c. forced air

What else should I add if anything?

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Hi John,

I'm fairly new at this game and I don't have as much experience writing reports as some of the others. I started reading yours and reading the comments in the hopes of improving my own. A few things did catch my eye, I'll comment on some. Here goes...

1. When reading your report and finding items "of interest", I had to keep scrolling to the top of the page to see where I was. I would prefer to either have the lines be marked "3.10" to denote page 3, line 10, or 54 (should that be the line), to denote the 54th line of the report.

2. At 3.06 (page 3, line 06), you have occupied/time... why are these together? I would prefer to see;

3.06 - Inspection start time - 9:00 a.m.

3.07 - Inspection completion time - 11:45 a.m.

3.08 - Building status - Occupied

3. At 4.07 - Structural walls - concrete/block, Were they? Or are you referring to the foundation walls? At 4.04, you state they are wood frame.

4. At 4.09, although I agree that windows provide ventilation, so do other things too. I feel that windows deserve a "section" by themselves.

To be continued...

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John,

I have been working on a paper for about twenty-five years. I titled it "Sticks, Stones and Straw" It ain't much, but it is now just a list of building materials that is 15pages long. That sort of thing is never complete and the only practical use I have ever gotten out of it is, using it as a tool to discourage wanna be inspectors. If you DON'T know categories of materials and methods, you need training and education.

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Originally posted by AHI

. . . It is a challenge to construct comments in a narrative fashion and also have them structured in a way that they can be used in a broad range of circumstances.

No, it's not a challenge. It's impossible. It leads to a completely crappy, unintelligible report. Write about what you see. Use as little canned language as possible.

I see myself as probably always needing to fine tune a bit before printing or submitting reports. Anyway, I believe I have made some improvements thus far. I hope a few of you will agree. Still open to the critics. Below is the link to the new sample.

http://home.comcast.net/~mailmanusa/sample.pdf

Frankly, it's terrible. Your competition is driving around in finely tuned formula one race cars and you're driving a go-cart.

Get yourself some decent paper forms. Use them till you know what you're doing. Then buy a good program such as Intelligent Reporter, InspectExpress or 3D and customize it to fit your writing style.

There are very few inspectors who have the computer skills to write a program that's better than any one of the dozens of programs already out there.

My apologies for being blunt. Unlike Walter or Brian or Scott, I'm not a southern gentleman. Hell, I'm not even as diplomatic as Les.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by AHI

Thanks for the opinions everyone.

Walter, I am glad to hear you say it is important to come across as a likeable person to ones clients on sight. I think I am pretty good at that. As far as your opinions on "writing", I think it would be helpful if you could post an example of a report. Post one that you think is acceptable, or better yet, one that you think is good. Can you do that?

Well, I would, but: I haven't written a straight-up HI report in over a year. I had samples on my old company website, but my long-time co-inspector has taken over the company and the website, and hasn't posted any sample reports yet.

Ask brother Katen, real nice, if he'll post one of his. Truth be told, he writes better HI reports than I ever did. I got by on fast composition, few (if any) errors, and simplicity. Well, that and the entertainment at the end of the job. The company lawyer referred to me and my co-inspector as "Penn and Teller." I was Penn. I told stories, offered up memorable anecdotes, and generally made sure customers left the house knowing everything they needed to know. I think it's good to set a goal of being unforgettable.

I'm a much better storyteller than report writer. I conveyed info with reports, winks, nods, show-and-tells, and anything else I thought would work.

We had a complaint rate of less than 1/2 of one percent, and it wasn't because I told everybody to, "consult licensed hairdresser to evaluate and repair..."

Hint: The few times I've been asked to teach kids about writing, the first thing I say is, "Don't write like your teachers tell you to write."

That goes triple for HIs. With precious few exceptions, everything they teach about writing at an HI school is ass-backwards dead wrong.

WJ

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I will take what I can from this forum and use it in the most positive way I can. If you like what I produce or not, I doubt I could get criticism more stringent elsewhere. I do give myself some credit. After all what I think is what matters the most. Having said that, it does not mean I can't adapt or that I am unwilling to change. I am learning and growing. I intend to be doing just that for many years to come.

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Originally posted by AHI

I will take what I can from this forum and use it in the most positive way I can. If you like what I produce or not, I doubt I could get criticism more stringent elsewhere. I do give myself some credit. After all what I think is what matters the most.

Not to be all contrary, but in the HI business, what you think hardly matters at all. It's what the customers think that matters.

A little anecdote: I've found that many HIs who produce hard-to-read reports defend them by saying something like, "it's easy to understand, once you make it around the learning curve." That's code for, "I understand it, I think it's OK, and I'm not going to change it."

These folks would do well to heed the old newspaper saying, "pity the poor reader." In the end, we profit most by serving our customers, not ourselves.

WJ

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I wont take any negative comments to heart. Its all good. I appreciate the time you all have spent. If what I was saying or doing was worthless I am sure you all would have just ignored me. Instead you engaged and that is a good thing for me. Because you have engaged its obvious I have made you think. In return you have made me think as well. I have no regrets for posting my samples but I think I will hush in that respect for now anyway.

In other news I have $2000 worth of training in the HI business on the horizon. 48 hours as required by my state begins July 16th. In addition to that I am taking a couple of extras. An 8 hour apprentice class which includes 2 full on site inspection jobs, and a 4 hour class designed to educate on the business end of the HI industry. I am glad to have the resource of this form to learn while I wait for classes to begin. I will be able to understand the upcoming material much better with the knowledge I gain here.

Thanks again,

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Your competition is driving around in finely tuned formula one race cars and you're driving a go-cart.

I'm not at all sure that's true. We all know that lots and lots of the HI's working now have reports that look and read very much like that, or worse. Around me it's all go-carts as far as I know.

Get yourself some decent paper forms. Use them till you know what you're doing. Then buy a good program such as Intelligent Reporter, InspectExpress or 3D and customize it to fit your writing style.

There are very few inspectors who have the computer skills to write a program that's better than any one of the dozens of programs already out there.

I think there's some confusion here. John isn't writing software, he's writing boilerplate for software he bought.

My apologies for being blunt. Unlike Walter or Brian or Scott, I'm not a southern gentleman. Hell, I'm not even as diplomatic as Les.

We wouldn't have it any other way Jim. We need at least one "bad cop" in the bunch anyway. Mind if we call you "Simon"? Les can be Paula Abdul. [;)] [-crzwom]

Brian G.

Simon Says....Fix Your Crappy Boilerplate [:-yuck]

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I'm not at all sure that's true. We all know that lots and lots of the HI's working now have reports that look and read very much like that, or worse. Around me it's all go-carts as far as I know.

Here in assbackwards Middle Tennessee, most of the HIs are diaper-clad, and crawl from place to place. I'd love to see 'em get up to moving on foot, and get some shoes on.

Speaking metaphorically, of course, in case anybody was wondering...

WJ

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Originally posted by Brian G.

Originally posted by Jim Katen

Your competition is driving around in finely tuned formula one race cars and you're driving a go-cart.

I'm not at all sure that's true. We all know that lots and lots of the HI's working now have reports that look and read very much like that, or worse. Around me it's all go-carts as far as I know.

I plead guilty to hyperbole. Honestly though, I think John can work on a much higher level than he's demonstrated with that report.

Get yourself some decent paper forms. Use them till you know what you're doing. Then buy a good program such as Intelligent Reporter, InspectExpress or 3D and customize it to fit your writing style.

There are very few inspectors who have the computer skills to write a program that's better than any one of the dozens of programs already out there.

I think there's some confusion here. John isn't writing software, he's writing boilerplate for software he bought.

Really!?! Please tell me what program that is.

My apologies for being blunt. Unlike Walter or Brian or Scott, I'm not a southern gentleman. Hell, I'm not even as diplomatic as Les.

We wouldn't have it any other way Jim. We need at least one "bad cop" in the bunch anyway. Mind if we call you "Simon"? Les can be Paula Abdul. [;)] [-crzwom]

Brian G.

Simon Says....Fix Your Crappy Boilerplate [:-yuck]

No, O'Handley's the cop. As for Simon, well, I've never watched American Idol. Can you re-cast me as someone from So You Think You Can Dance? Maybe I could be Mary Murphy.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

No, O'Handley's the cop. As for Simon, well, I've never watched American Idol. Can you re-cast me as someone from So You Think You Can Dance? Maybe I could be Mary Murphy.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Well, I used to be. However, I'm proud to say that, according to a talking head on another forum, this place is run in such totalitarianism fashion that I'm going to have to assume the title of Dictator for Life.

LOL, chubby little Joe B., he's so funny!

John could save himself a lot of aggravation by simply purchasing our sponsor's software - Inspect Express - and editing the boilerplate to his own taste. All of the stuff that he's been asking about is already included in there.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

I plead guilty to hyperbole. Honestly though, I think John can work on a much higher level than he's demonstrated with that report.

Agreed, but he's as green as a gourd right now. Give him a chance to adjust to the Katen/TIJ ways, o' wise one.

Really!?! Please tell me what program that is.

You'll have to ask him, but that is the case.

No, O'Handley's the cop. As for Simon, well, I've never watched American Idol. Can you re-cast me as someone from So You Think You Can Dance? Maybe I could be Mary Murphy.

I've never watched either one, so be my guest.

Brian G.

Get Kurt on the Dance Show [:-party]

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Walter, Are you saying that in the HI business what an inspector might think is not as important as what the customer might think? Careful now because my next response is hanging on your very answer to this.

Jim, yes I am working with software I purchased. There are two main reasons I choose not to mention the maker at this point.

1. I am aware that the sponsors of this forum are competitors in that they have their own software on the market. I don't want to step on their toes by mentioning the competition. In addition the responses relative to the quality of a competitors software may be biased in this forum.

2. I am still new and have much to learn. I am probably not the best promoter of software related to the HI business at this time. So out of respect for the writer of the software I choose to conceal the brand at this time.

Its not the tool..its the user...

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