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OK, I'll take a shot at posting a report from today. A real dump, but hey, the good ones are easy to report on.

I would appreciate comments on:

Style; too soft; too hard; wrong; cosmetic; not enough detail (difficult to understand); beyond the scope; missed items (from photos); passive voice (yeah, you too Walter); stupid boilerplate; spelling and puncuation (I can't remember the last time I proof-read a report); and anything else you want to comment on.

One or two positive comments are not required but are welcomed.

I know this requires time and effort and it is appreciated. We all want to get better at what we do and I am happy to critique in return.

I would prefer you post comments here rather than e-mail me so we can all learn from this. If your comments will get you banned from the board, e-mail me at fritz@kellyhomeinspection.com

Disclaimers: There is extraneous info in all of my reports due to state standards. I know you don't care if "no skylights are installed". Try to wade through that crap and know that I don't include it because I want to.

Here is the link to the shack

www.homnspector.com/2007-10-30Anonymous.PDF

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You used this type of construction a lot.

(replace with a nominalizationid="blue">) is recommended

You made lots & lots of passive voice constructions for example:

Moisture damage is noted at the roof sheeting above the electric panel, replacement of the damaged sheeting is recommendedid="blue">.

I would have written something like: On the north side of the house above the electric panel the eave is damaged. Have a roofer repair the damaged eave.id="blue">

Then I might have a picture or two of the damaged eave with a caption describing the type of damage marked up by arrows or circles etc.

Do you have a copy of Bonnie's book? If not, get it and read it at least 10 times.

You also have a lot of "consider" doing this type constructions Consider, acts like a convention. It weakens your point. I advocate making recommendations imperative.

Chris, Oregon

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I give the report a C-minus. It's surely not the worst HI report I've ever seen. But it contains just about all of the writing errors I see in HI reports. Passive voice, roundabout explanations, faulty grammary, syntax and spelling.

It's a very tedious read. Full of InspectorSpeak. No conversational English. For instance, "Attic is partial." Who talks like that?

And there's this: "No water supply shutoff is provided at the water heater, suggest adding a valve." Bad syntax and punctuation. Nobody talks like that. Nobody expects to read something like that. Why not keep it simple and conversational? Something like, "There's no shutoff valve at the water heater. Have a plumber install a shutoff valve."

Another example: "When interior fixtures were turned on, major overflow occurred at the septic tank lid." How about, "When I turned on the fixtures at (name locations), water spilled out of the septic tank."

At the top of Page 8: "The foregoing is an opinion..." You're not talking about "the foregoing." You're talking about "the following." Whatever you do, don't try to write fancy. You don't need "foregoing" in an HI report.

At the bottom of every page, you've misspelled, "unauthorized."

Strictly from the grammar/syntax/spelling point of view, the report needs a lot of work.

I didn't focus on the tech stuff, but I got the impression that you found and reported defects pretty well. You just didn't explain the issues clearly.

Hope that helps,

WJ

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I could "picture" the subject house, but agree with Walter J. I would not have given it a c-, but a d. My reasoning is it is convoluted and that would open the text up to mis-interpertation. Good factual stuff. I had to laugh when reading about the roof.

Likely the report works for the buyer, but seems to be written for the inspector.

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Hi,

Okay, I spent a half hour with it. That's all I could take. I'd give it a D-. Not because it's technically inaccurate, but because I experienced a certain amount of angst trying to figure out what's what and found myself constantly rifling back and forth between portions of the text. I'm used to this stuff, but if I were a first-time home buyer trying to figure that report out, I think I'd feel a little bit of stress while doing so.

Cover Design - Turn-off, looks unfinished, poor placement of graphic and title block on the page, photo overwhelms the page. Too much emphasis on your company. Tone it down and place more emphasis on the clients.

Why say?:

WALLS

Siding on the west and south sides is heavily weathered and checked. Yadda, yadda.

You've already got it under the sub-heading Exterior/Foundation. Why not just bold it and say?:

The siding on the west and south sides is heavily weathered and checked - Yadda, yadda, yadda.

There are cracks in the slab in some areas of the kitchen - Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Ditch the robot talk (passive voice) and speak like a person. Only Al Austin actually speaks in passive voice.

What ever happened to The roof, The flashings, The east addition roof (or better yet, the roof over the east addition), There are multiple stains... Stains of what? Grease? Paint? Shit? Water?

Too many font variations. It's distracting.

Could you lose the text boxes around everything? We need lines on a legal pad to guide our handwriting. Why would we want it to be in our texts?

Descriptions are lumped together with deficiencies in the main report. It causes the reader to have to hunt for the issues.

If you're going to have photos, why aren't there photos in the summary report? The main report is so confusing that it forces the reader to go to the summary in order to get to the gist of what the issues are, but then the photos aren't there, so the reader has to go back and forth, back and forth.

Disclaimers use up too much space. I'd use smaller font and justify spacing.

You need to use your page breaks. In the summary report, the Plumbing System ends and then the Heating and Air Conditioning header is the last line of the page and is disconnected from that section. If you see that a header is going to end up on the bottom of a page separated from it's relavent text, insert a page break.

Report limitations on page 2 & 3 - place it all on one page. Use a page break.

The company logo at the top of every page isn't necessary. The product, the report, is your advertisement. Use the company name sparingly. If the reader is impressed with your work product and wants to find the name of your company, they can go to the title page - there's no need to splash the graphic all over everything.

Get some white space between the photos and place the captions where they're more easily seen. The ones with the caption in the box at the left side are far easier to read than those where you've scrunched the captions into narrow little text boxes (those friggin text box lines again) at the bottom of the photo.

I liked the roof plan graphic on page 12. Wish I knew how to do that without it taking me an hour to accomplish.

If you're going to take a picture and caption it, make the caption relate only to what's depicted. You've taken a photo of the PVC pipe extention on a TPR valve on page 14 and written the PVC pipe (a non-issue IMO) and then crammed a bunch of other text in next to it. I understand it, but the way it's presented it will have a non-inspector sitting there staring at the photo wondering what pan you're talking about and where should the cutoff be.

Why pictures of a burner flame with the caption "Burner flames appear typical"? - What's the point?

On page 21, you show the photo of the service panel. Then you place the following in the box next to the photo.

Circuit breaker and wire

sizing correct so far as

visible. Grounding system is

present. Labels are

incomplete or breakers are

not well labeled. Properly

label all breakers for safety.

The uninitiated is liable to think that "Grounding system present" means that it's a deficiency because it's lumped together with the deficiencies.

To me, the whole report presentation felt disorganized and confusing. There's way too much stuff going on with a lot of text crammed together in tight places; one must look at the pictures and captions and try and decide whether the caption on this one is now on the top or at the side, etc..

Like Les, although I didn't read much of the technical stuff, because the presentation was so overwhelming, I think that it's probably alright technically but I, quite frankly, hated the format and presentation.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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All good info. The formatting problems are easy to deal with except maybe the page breaks that seem to change when I print to PDF.

The main problems seem to be the language and mixing defects in with non-defects in the "condition" sections.

I knew I would get plenty of comments on the passive language. I have a really hard time with that one. It seems like if I write in active voice it comes out sounding like my "what I did on my summer vacation" composition in 4th grade.

I can keep the photos out of the description / condition area, each on its own line with the caption to the left and ditch the captioning at the base of the photo.

How best to separate defects from description? Another sub-heading? Maybe a different font [:-irked](slowly I turned, step by step...).

How in the world do you do that separation in a fully narrative report?

The only reason for the burner flames picture is I had a client move into a home about 4 months after I had inspected it. The furnace didn't work when she moved in. She called and insisted I couldn't possibly have checked the furnace. There was no way I could convince her that I had checked the furnace. She had a home warranty. I finally gave up and paid her deductible of $35 to shut her up. Ever since, I try to show a photo of anything I can show in actual operation. Strictly CYA. I'm not sure how to get around that one.

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Originally posted by homnspector

. . . I knew I would get plenty of comments on the passive language. I have a really hard time with that one. It seems like if I write in active voice it comes out sounding like my "what I did on my summer vacation" composition in 4th grade.

That would be an improvement.

I can keep the photos out of the description / condition area, each on its own line with the caption to the left and ditch the captioning at the base of the photo.

I disagree with the others about your photos. Put them anywhere you please. They're the least of the problems.

How best to separate defects from description? Another sub-heading? Maybe a different font [:-irked](slowly I turned, step by step...).

How in the world do you do that separation in a fully narrative report?

A heading called, "description" and another heading called, "defects"?

The only reason for the burner flames picture is I had a client move into a home about 4 months after I had inspected it. The furnace didn't work when she moved in. She called and insisted I couldn't possibly have checked the furnace. There was no way I could convince her that I had checked the furnace. She had a home warranty. I finally gave up and paid her deductible of $35 to shut her up. Ever since, I try to show a photo of anything I can show in actual operation. Strictly CYA. I'm not sure how to get around that one.

Take the picture and file it away. No need to put useless pictures in every report just to wet the eye of one customer in a thousand.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

. . . . Take the picture and file it away. No need to put useless pictures in every report just to wet the eye of one customer in a thousand.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

OK, just because it was Katen, I had to do it...

You meant whet vice wet, didn't you? That is, unless you were implying that the useless pictures in reports bring customers to tears.... [:P]

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Fritz, you already got most of the negative.

Perhaps some more implicatons of the defects would help.

The positive for me was the presentation and look of the report.

I really liked the diagram of the roof as an aid to the client .

34 pages was about right.

Would like to see better navigation to sections though it was good once there .

I always ask which software did you use , or is it a word program.?

I give it a B

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Originally posted by Bob White

Originally posted by Jim Katen

. . . . Take the picture and file it away. No need to put useless pictures in every report just to wet the eye of one customer in a thousand.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

OK, just because it was Katen, I had to do it...

You meant whet vice wet, didn't you? That is, unless you were implying that the useless pictures in reports bring customers to tears.... [:P]

Actually, I meant to say that one customer in a thousand would weep with frustration at not being able to prove that her inspector didn't look at a furnace.

Imagine the scene: A vindictive customer frantically searches through her inspector's report looking for evidence that he didn't look at the furnace. With a cry of agony, she sees it, a picture of the furnace flame. "Oh, fie!" she cries in frustration, "Now I'll never be able to exact my revenge on Fritz. What a world! What a world!" Tears well forth from her eyes and cascade down her cheeks.

I never considered that an eye could be whetted though it's a good idea. I suppose we should all whet our eyes before we begin our inspections.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Thread drift

Jim Katen let me peek at one of his cool reports. I wonder what it will take get Hausdok to show me one of his?

Probably have to take a trip to Seattle and pretend I am buying some house and hire him under false pretenses just so I could see the master at work.

Chris, Oregon

My reports are a moving target, Chris. I'm constantly learning and changing them. You probably can't find any two that, aside from the layout and format, are completely grammatically alike; such is my ongoing battle to drive the passivinspectorspeak demons from my reports. There was enough passive inspectorspeak in them when I began back in 1996 to float a battleship; now, probably only a dinghy or two.

It's a bitch learning new stuff, or should I say unlearning old stuff, at our age.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Thread drift

Jim Katen let me peek at one of his cool reports. I wonder what it will take get Hausdok to show me one of his?

Probably have to take a trip to Seattle and pretend I am buying some house and hire him under false pretenses just so I could see the master at work.

Chris, Oregon

I would also like to see a report posted that was written by either Les, Jim, or Mike. Or, all three.

Show us how it supposed to be done!

Kevin

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Originally posted by homnspector

The main problems seem to be the language and mixing defects in with non-defects in the "condition" sections.

I knew I would get plenty of comments on the passive language. I have a really hard time with that one. It seems like if I write in active voice it comes out sounding like my "what I did on my summer vacation" composition in 4th grade.

Your report would be a hundred times better if you wrote something like "what I did on my summer vacation." You, like many HIs, are battling with the voice in your head that tells you that you have to write like a "professional."

Problem is, each and every HI who tries to write fancy, use big words and generally try to make himself look like a "schooled" writer creates exactly the opposite effect. "Professional-writing" HIs actually come out looking less educated, less accurate, and less attuned to detail than the 4th-grader who can remember the grammar rules and keep things simple.

Worse yet, an HI who puts "professionalism" in his writing ahead of clear and simple communication leaves an impression of being somebody who's unable to perform a simple task, like writing a 4th-grade paper.

Well-educated customers -- who were, for me, far less trouble than the less-educated ones -- do mock people who screw up in their writing. They might not laugh right in the poor writer's face, but they laugh as soon as he's out of earshot. The educated reeltors laugh out loud, too. Believe me when I tell ya...

A point to remember: we are not technical writers. There's no reason for us to use truncated jargon that would only be understood by tech-heads ("attic is partial; leakage observed; granule loss noted," and such like).

HIs who are stuck in the passive-voice, defensive, convoluted writing mud need to shake that dull, sloppy, lazy bureaucratic voice out of their heads and write like they'd talk if they were explaining something to their grandmas.

Long story short: This goofy HI writing is an addiction. Those who can't kick the habit ought to go straight checklist -- pictures, check-boxes and nothing else. Think Keith Richard getting a transfusion.

Those who can't, don't, and aren't willing to write well shouldn't even try to put nouns and verbs together. Any HI who's not committed to getting clean, washing that InspectorSpeak out of his head forever, is just wasting his time trying to get the commas right.

WJid="blue">

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Imagine the scene: A vindictive customer frantically searches through her inspector's report looking for evidence that he didn't look at the furnace. With a cry of agony, she sees it, a picture of the furnace flame. "Oh, fie!" she cries in frustration, "Now I'll never be able to exact my revenge on Fritz. What a world! What a world!" Tears well forth from her eyes and cascade down her cheeks.

Poor woman, now I'm glad I gave her the $35.

Bob, I use "3D". It is databased rather than Word or word processor which sometimes makes formatting, page breaks, etc. a bitch. It comes complete with TONS of inspectorspeak.

I do like the diagram features and the options for where to place photos.

Any HI who's not committed to getting clean, washing that InspectorSpeak out of his head forever, is just wasting his time trying to get the commas right.

I am thinking maybe a 12 step program. I wonder why it is more difficult for me to write more simply.

ZD net has free drawing programs for roof diagrams, etc. This is one I have used in the past, it's pretty easy and can be imported into the report like a photo:

http://downloads.zdnet.com/download.asp ... cid=227363

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Can't speak for the others, but I usually don't write the same thing twice. Letterhead stays the same, but that is about it. Run of the mill (not many for me anymore) might be 3pages, 15pages or two.

Then, my usual response when "questioned" by an atty "Do you write the laws or just read them"?

There would be nothing to gain from reading any report I write. Commercial stuf is quite different, I think mine are a little better than average for my clients.

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What I am interested in is the differing structure and organization of our reports.

But speaking for my self I learn the most when I post an example of my lame narrative to be Katenized.

In reviewing homnspectors report I found myself thinking like a client trying to misunderstand what was being said. It made me realize I need to make things simpler and let a photo explain the detail to interested parties - like repair contactors.

I am now thinking that clients would rather see something simple like the word "damaged" rather than "portions of the eave are delaminating, rotting, and sagging". Thats too hard to picture even for me without a photo. But tell me it's damaged and I easily know it's something that needs to be repaired now.

Oh, concerning W.J. 's clear and simple comment, when I worked as an engineer that was something I really admired in the execs when I was in on big meetings. The execs talked in clear and simple terms - short sentences, while the engineers went on & on in passive voice speak which would usually get summed up by an exec saying something like - "Well what you are trying to say is - (some short sentenceid="blue">), right?" Then the engineer turns red and says "yea".... Well thats actually a lie. What they really did was start up with their diatribe all over again trying to be accurate. It was embarassing.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by homnspector

ZD net has free drawing programs for roof diagrams, etc. This is one I have used in the past, it's pretty easy and can be imported into the report like a photo:

http://downloads.zdnet.com/download.asp ... cid=227363

I clicked on the link and found something strange. I found that Mike must have been using my computer!

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif Screen.jpg

130.56 KB

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Originally posted by homnspector

I am thinking maybe a 12 step program. I wonder why it is more difficult for me to write more simply.

Old habits die hard.

Y'know what's funny? Just about everybody who posts here makes pretty good sense, as long as they're "talking to" their peers.

But let 'em start writing a report, and they start trying to gear up to the challenge of writing "professional."

Here's a suggestion: Run down the list of folks who post here who also are published professional writers, or just plain good writers. Then ask yourself, "Why in the hell don't I just do what they say, rather than start up again with the convoluted passive-voice crap?"

Frankly, it amazes me that so many folks who post here write near-perfect prose, make perfect sense and generally set an excellent example. Others praise them for doing it, but the next day are posting a piece of a report that is impossible to read.

As I've stated (metaphorically) before: If you want to learn how to shoot a basketball, and Michael Jordan walks into the gym and offers to teach you, just quit doing what you've been doing, and do what Michael Jordan says.

WJid="blue">

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

As I've stated (metaphorically) before: If you want to learn how to shoot a basketball, and Michael Jordan walks into the gym and offers to teach you, just quit doing what you've been doing, and do what Michael Jordan says.

WJ[/blue]

That runs counter to the general HI mindset. Absolutely true, but when they finally come up w/the "right" terminology to describe what we do, it is going to be cross referenced to "re-inventers of wheels".

I'm guilty like everyone else.

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