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Is there anyway to learn this skill without trying out your report writing on your grandmother or a willing stranger?

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that this might be the only way to do it because I suck at it.

Another frustrating messed up repair job on a reinspection. Client and realtors first language is Arabic and sellers and sellers agents first language is Russian and mine of course is Oregon English.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Is there anyway to learn this skill without trying out your report writing on your grandmother or a willing stranger?

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that this might be the only way to do it because I suck at it.

Another frustrating messed up repair job on a reinspection. Client and realtors first language is Arabic and sellers and sellers agents first language is Russian and mine of course is Oregon English.

Chris, Oregon

Hi Chris,

Your question doesn't match your frustration. You can Bonnie-ize, Walter-ize and Katen-ize your writing so it is understood by an intelligent English speaking person.

No amount of work on your part will help non-English or barely-English clients understand yours or anyone else's English. Best you can do in that case is ensure that a lawyer will understand your report clearly.

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Ya, I know I won't ever be able to bullit proof my writing but talking to the Arabic speaking realtor caused be to see some weaknesses in how I phrased the recommendation.

I wrote: "Have a carpenter reinforce the floors under the interior walls of the two bedrooms."

They somehow got focused on "reinforce the floors" so it was communicated to the repair person to throw some more posts down there under the wimpy 4"x4" beams.

On retrospect I think I should have worded it to focus attention to adding more longitudinal support under the walls. The way I worded it was ambiguous and made the floors the object of the verb and not the walls. Anyway the whole fiasco reminded me that I still got a lot a work to do in checking logic, accurate use of words and phrases, and making sure I have made the point clear and quickly not the usually secondary and ambiguous way I do left over from years of passive writing.

Chris, Oregon

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Chris, what you wrote sounds pretty good to me.

I'm sure others will chime in on how to improve the language even more, but I think we walk a fine line; we must be clear in what we find and recommend and not get into writing detailed, prescriptive repair specifications. That's a whole other game that some of us may be qualfied to play but where do we draw the line in how much we write?

BTW, what's wrong with adding more posts under an under-sized beam? Are you saying the span between the beams was too large?

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Chris,

A few years ago in a courtroom an attorney was trying to pin me to the wall over step flashing. I reported the condition as unsatisfactory, that details were improper, that they allowed for water entry and that a qualified roofer should evaluate. The attorney was pressing the issue that I didn't say that "repair" was needed. In my tempered response I indicated my belief that he fit the term "moron" quite well.

Sometimes no matter what you write someone will find fault with it.

I see nothing wrong with your comment.

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That's instructive by itself. Recommendations for evaluation get you in court. Telling someone to fix something gets something else.

I thought Chris statement was fine, but it might have been better to describe the idea more succinctly.

"The floors should be repaired. You should have a contractor & provide specifications for repair and the approximate cost".

I often say things like "The xxxxxx is unsatisfactory. xxxxxxx should be repaired".

Sometimes I just say "Repair the xxxxxxx", or "Have the xxxxxxx repaired". Or, I'll tell folks "Repair the xxxxx; there's lots of ways to do this. Have a contractor specify repairs and the approximate cost, and then get back to me to discuss the options".

That may be stupid, but my rationale is, I told them to repair something, I put the specifications on someone else, indicated there's more than one way to skin a cat, and then told them to get back to me, which theoretically keeps me in the loop which is a good thing, right?

It doesn't have to be complicated, or use a lot of words. At least, I don't think so.

Folks pay us to be experts. Why not be one? Telling folks to have something evalutated by someone else doesn't sound expert, does it?

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Originally posted by Eric B

Sometimes no matter what you write someone will find fault with it.

That can only happen if there's fault to find. If the text is written correctly, it will have no faults, and nobody can find fault with it.

Best I can tell, there's no sympathy in the courtroom for the guy whose only defense is, "They should have known what I was trying to say..."

Dish that up, and the opposing expert will start shooting the fish in the barrel.

WJid="blue">

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Ya, I know I won't ever be able to bullit proof my writing but talking to the Arabic speaking realtor caused be to see some weaknesses in how I phrased the recommendation.

I wrote: "Have a carpenter reinforce the floors under the interior walls of the two bedrooms."

They somehow got focused on "reinforce the floors" so it was communicated to the repair person to throw some more posts down there under the wimpy 4"x4" beams.

On retrospect I think I should have worded it to focus attention to adding more longitudinal support under the walls. The way I worded it was ambiguous and made the floors the object of the verb and not the walls. Anyway the whole fiasco reminded me that I still got a lot a work to do in checking logic, accurate use of words and phrases, and making sure I have made the point clear and quickly not the usually secondary and ambiguous way I do left over from years of passive writing.

Chris, Oregon

Here's a little trick of mine, which I believe brother Katen has adopted, which means it must be a dang fine idea:

Start your description with the location. For instance, "In the yellow bathroom..."

That way, you start out by giving the reader -- and yourself -- a mental picture of what you're talking about. It's fairly easy to expand the mental picture from there.

It sounds goofy, but one can keep this "trick" in mind by referring mentally to Old McDonald. In this closet, there is a furnace, eieio, and on this furnace, there is a bad vent, eieio.

Go ahead. Make fun of me. Now I'll be "The Old McDonald Guy."

WJid="blue">

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Here's a little trick of mine, which I believe brother Katen has adopted, which means it must be a dang fine idea:

Start your description with the location. For instance, "In the yellow bathroom..."

That way, you start out by giving the reader -- and yourself -- a mental picture of what you're talking about. It's fairly easy to expand the mental picture from there.

It sounds goofy, but one can keep this "trick" in mind by referring mentally to Old McDonald. In this closet, there is a furnace, eieio, and on this furnace, there is a bad vent, eieio.

Go ahead. Make fun of me. Now I'll be "The Old McDonald Guy."

WJ

id="blue">
I would have no problem being the "Old McDonald" guy if that is what it takes. I have only been doing this for 9 years, but have only been in a courtroom as a witness for a plaintiff, never as a defendant. I have only received one demand letter from a client's attorney. That was a dead issue after I (not an attorney) wrote a response. And even that demand letter was pretty weakly worded. The attorney knew it was a waste of his client's time. But he (the attorney) got paid anyway, right?

I harbor no illusions that a lawsuit won't eventually name me. After all, that is the lottery system uneducated or unethical people choose to cover their oversights or poor judgment, right?

If you are not vague you have fewer problems. It's that simple. However, I would recommend that you don't prescribe an exact fix unless you are sure it can't be misinterpreted and you are qualified to do so. The danger still remains that some blithering idiot can do what you say, but in a poor fashion. I recommend avoiding the term "further evaluation by a qualified whatever" unless it is followed by something along the lines of "and make all necessary repairs to ensure proper function, personal safety", etc.

Don't leave any monkeys the opportunity to jump on your back.

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You would think that anything that an inspector said in the report should be interpreted as possibly being a problem. So if an inspector said to have something further evaluated then that would be a clue that there is most probably a problem that needs to be considered. But what I have read here is that it is not how it gets interpreted and maybe things for evaluation get filtered out or glossed over by clients and their realtors. Its been said here a number of times that its imperative to not just say evaluate but to fix any problems found.

If an HI says "have something evaluated cause it don't look right", why does the implication not follow to get any problems found repaired?

If my doctor told me to go get and MRI, why would I think to leave it at that?

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

You would think that anything that an inspector said in the report should be interpreted as possibly being a problem. So if an inspector said to have something further evaluated then that would be a clue that there is most probably a problem that needs to be considered. But what I have read here is that it is not how it gets interpreted and maybe things for evaluation get filtered out or glossed over by clients and their realtors. Its been said here a number of times that its imperative to not just say evaluate but to fix any problems found.

If an HI says "have something evaluated cause it don't look right", why does the implication not follow to get any problems found repaired?

If my doctor told me to go get and MRI, why would I think to leave it at that?

Chris, Oregon

Chris, Chris, Chris...

You are right! An intelligent person gets the implications. An intelligent person hires a qualified home inspector. An intelligent person is not the problem.

You have to write for the ignorant. Many years ago, pharmacists had to label prescription cough syrup: "Take x teaspoonfulls of this by mouth ..." They could not write "teaspoonsfull" because some idiot might try to swallow the teaspoons full of cough syrup.

When you titled this discussion, "Writing to not be misunderstood," you have to consider the audience. It's not us, it's the lowest common denominator of our species.

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Yea, it's sad but true. I was thinking though after my last post that even though my doctor might send me to get an MRI he would arrange for a follow up visit go over the results.

If an HI says to have something evaluated then he better follow it up with either - tell them to fix any problems they find or get back to me with the results so I can make a recommendation on what to do next.

Chris, Oregon.

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Rarely does one have a casket salesman spinning a doctors advice after you leave the doctors office.

Realtors/sellers take what we say, get their own geeks in there, and all of a sudden something that is a problem is now "deferred maintenance" that someone's handyman can easily take care of.

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Here's my take: Usually, when I read the report of an errant HI (and I do that a lot), I find a pattern of soft recommendations, circumlocution and often pure ignorance. As noted above, we have to write for the ignorant. Often, the errant HI contributes writing by the ignorant.

Although one soft recommendation (or suggestion, as so many soft-sell HIs call it) can get the HI in trouble, I think it's the pattern that gets him hammered. Even an ignorant judge, jury, arbitrator, mediator, etc. can tell when the HI is, well, bullshitting. (Those HIs dumb enough to bullshit pretty much glow in the dark.)

To me, "further evaluation" is right alongside "monitor." The HI knows there's a problem, or at least there's something he doesn't understand, so it punts the evaluation and monitoring to somebody else. Simply put, he stops short.

I think the credibility gap can be filled by writing something like, "Get a carpenter to tell you what repairs or modifications, if any, are needed. Then, correct the problems."

However one chooses to phrase it, he needs to finish. Follow through. Put the ball in the end zone. Or, as a reeltor would say, close the deal.

WJ

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My World Famous Opinion: Most inspectors write well above their knowledge of the issue. They rely on the authors of software, home-made boilerplate, and Uncle Henry. Most can't write well because they don't really know what they are trying to say.

Also, write like you speak and keep educating yourself and you will never get into any trouble. Never be afraid to say you don't know or write that you don't know. For your sake, my sake and Walter's sake keep your sources and citations handy.

I have seen more than one inspector get off the hook when he/she really believed and cited a bogus source. (Demeanor and personality does count) My EW task is to dis-credit that and more often than not, I (client) win.

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Ahem!

Did we lose a planet and clone another? What happened to Mercury?

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto (?), ???

Les, go sit in the corner. Gary, Chris, Kurt, and Walter, your powers of observation need some work; go clean the erasers and dump the trash. [:-dunce][:-dunce][:-dunce][:-dunce][:-dunce]

OT - OF!!!

M. [:D]

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