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I recommend that you..... vs.


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Which do you think is better?

........theres a problem with the furnace. I recommend that you hire a qualified HVAC technician to fix it.

or

........theres a problem with the furnace. Hire a qualified HVAC technician to fix it.

Hi John,

What's glaringly missing is whats wrong with the furnace. For the sake of argument, if you don't know whats wrong then describe what you did and what happened as a result. For example "When I turned on the thermostat, the furnace did nothing."

That's a whole lot more information than "There's a problem with the furnace."

However getting to whether it's better to say "I recommend ..." or the imperative "hire, repair, fix, etc.", it depends.

What I do is if the condition is something rather serious in that it follows that not doing anything about it will make matters worse or perhaps cause injury, I use the imperative.

If it's something minor like a door binding or a missing door stop, then I use a WJism like - If you don't want holes in your walls, you'll need to install door stops.

If I see something wrong, and I can't figure out exactly whats going on and it's neither deserving an imperative recommendation or a WJism then I might say something like " My advice is to ...", which is the equivilent of "I recommend ..."

I also use an O'Handleyism a lot - "Talk to a (type of contractor inserted here) or two and get options and costs for ..."

If I feel I need to make a point, or alert/warn the client I might say something like - "Understand that ...", which I picked up from Jim Katen.

IOW, don't limit yourself to just the imperative or "I recommend ..." What you want to do is give good advice.

Beg a copy of one of Jim Katens reports; he's the master at this.

Chris, Oregon

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Just speak in the first person and tell the what is wrong and what they need to do.

When I turned the furnace on flames shot out the front. This is not normal. You need to have a qualified HVAC contractor repair or replace as needed, before it is used. You could then add this; I put the fire out that started from the furnace in the attic with the garden hose, but this then caused the ceiling to fall in the kitchen and it shorted-out the microwave oven. Your cat was a little close to the fire but should be OK once it's hair grows back.[:-bigeyes

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Originally posted by John Dirks Jr

Sorry. I didn't intend to get into the entire comment. Just the "I recommend" part. My fault.

Y'know, if you just want to get to the recommendation, train your software to spit out the word, "Recommendation:" with the colon after it. It's way better than the usual HI nonsense, such as, "Recommend licensed hairdresser."

Or worse yet, something like: "Recommend hairdresser evaluate furnace in laundry room with rotten potatoes in the bin by the side door to the garage."

Home inspectors, taken as a breed, are godawful at syntax. (I know, I know. Home inspectors, taken as a breed, don't know what syntax is.)

Just go with something like: "Recommendation: Replace the furnace."

I also toyed with -- but never implemented -- this abbreviated reporting method:

Observation: The attic folding stair is broken.

Problem: If a person gets on the stair, the stair could break.

Recommendation: Hire a carpenter -- one who can cut and measure -- to replace the stair.

WJid="blue">

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I also toyed with -- but never implemented -- this abbreviated reporting method:

Observation: The attic folding stair is broken.

Problem: If a person gets on the stair, the stair could break.

Recommendation: Hire a carpenter -- one who can cut and measure -- to replace the stair.

WJid="blue">

Well, I'm guessing you never implemented such because you did fine & dandy using Cramerware, and just wrote something like...

Safety Concern The attic stair is broken. If you use the stair, it could break and you could be seriously injured (or worse). Have a carpenter fix or replace the stair as needed.

At least you never called for "further evaluation"...

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I've done a few apartment buildings w/the 3 part OAR approach. It works remarkably well. Simple, fast, extremely effective.

I mean, have you ever sat down and read a number of your own inspection reports? I find it excruciating, even when they're *good*. Why do folks want to lengthen the torture time of reading an inspection report?

There's a nagging persistent rumor that reports are supposed to read like a short story. The closer to bullet points one can get, the better.

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Originally posted by Scottpat

Just speak in the first person and tell the what is wrong and what they need to do.

When I turned the furnace on flames shot out the front. This is not normal. You need to have a qualified HVAC contractor repair or replace as needed, before it is used. You could then add this; I put the fire out that started from the furnace in the attic with the garden hose, but this then caused the ceiling to fall in the kitchen and it shorted-out the microwave oven. Your cat was a little close to the fire but should be OK once it's hair grows back.[:-bigeyes

Why do you feel it is important to write in the first person? I hear this from different people from time to time and not sure why it is so important.

I would think all the parties involve would also understand the statement if written like this.

Flames shot out of the front of the furnace when turned on which is not considered normal operation. A qualified HVAC technician is needed to repair or replace as needed before further operation of the furnace.

I'll leave the second option alone.[;)]

Just curious.

When it comes to what everyone has written so far regarding the original post, I agree.

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Originally posted by qhinspect

Originally posted by Scottpat

Just speak in the first person and tell the what is wrong and what they need to do.

When I turned the furnace on flames shot out the front. This is not normal. You need to have a qualified HVAC contractor repair or replace as needed, before it is used. You could then add this; I put the fire out that started from the furnace in the attic with the garden hose, but this then caused the ceiling to fall in the kitchen and it shorted-out the microwave oven. Your cat was a little close to the fire but should be OK once it's hair grows back.[:-bigeyes

Why do you feel it is important to write in the first person? I hear this from different people from time to time and not sure why it is so important.

I'm not Scott, but I say write in first person because it's good natural conversational English, and because writing in third person would be downright silly. No reason to write in second person unless you're addressing the reader.id="blue">

I would think all the parties involve would also understand the statement if written like this.

Flames shot out of the front of the furnace when turned on which is not considered normal operation. A qualified HVAC technician is needed to repair or replace as needed before further operation of the furnace.

I disagree. I think Scott was using the absurd to prove the usefulness of good writing. In your statement, the syntax is nonsensical. Taken literally, your first statement means that a furnace being "turned on" is not normal operation. Your second statement is written in passive voice, which is the language of politicians, bureaucrats, and others who are trying to hide their meaning. Google "syntax" and "grammar." I've always held that a professional person must write at least at the sixth-grade level.

Just as carpenters have to put the nails in the right places, writers have to put the words in the right places, or they'll create the impression that they really aren't sure how to do the job.id="blue">

I'll leave the second option alone.[;)]

Just curious.

When it comes to what everyone has written so far regarding the original post, I agree.

A suggestion: Be aware that an HI's written communication is not meant for the HI who wrote it, nor is it meant for other HIs who are, uh, communication-challenged. It's meant for the reader, who usually is a naive homeowner.

If bad spelling, grammar and syntax were good things, the New York Times would use bad spelling, grammar and syntax.

WJid="blue">

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Originally posted by qhinspect

Why do you feel it is important to write in the first person? I hear this from different people from time to time and not sure why it is so important.

I have heard that it is a not a good idea to write this way if you are incorporated... you might want the company sued instead of you personally. Of course it won't matter if your not incorporated or don't have a LLC anyway. I was explained that We or It was better than I from that perspective. A question for the E&O experts?

Michael Brown

DevWave Software Inc.

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Why do you feel it is important to write in the first person? I hear this from different people from time to time and not sure why it is so important.

I use to write that way all the time and I found it very hard to shake off. You want to give as much useful information concisely as you can to the client. It turns out that the passive voice mind set will have you doing just the opposite.

At first when you're trying to repent it feels silly to add what you might think are extra words: the doer of the action. But later as you become more accustomed to thinking again (reframing) in the active voice you'll see that you will actually be comunicating more useful information.id="blue">

I would think all the parties involve would also understand the statement if written like this.

That's a common misconception. Passive voice thinking walks you right into commiting logical errors. Active voice thinking will help steer you away from them just like WJ said.id="blue">

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by admin

Originally posted by qhinspect

Why do you feel it is important to write in the first person? I hear this from different people from time to time and not sure why it is so important.

I have heard that it is a not a good idea to write this way if you are incorporated... you might want the company sued instead of you personally. Of course it won't matter if your not incorporated or don't have a LLC anyway. I was explained that We or It was better than I from that perspective. A question for the E&O experts?

Michael Brown

DevWave Software Inc.

I'm no E&O expert, and I'm no lawyer, although I work with lawyers regularly.

I just can't imagine a situation in which one loses his "corporate veil" because he wrote something like, "I saw a puddy tat," rather than, "a puddy tat was observed."

In my experience, when an HI gets sued -- whether he's running a sole proprietorship, a corp or an LLC -- it's not because he chose to write in active voice. It's because he screwed up the job so egregiously that it's worth the plaintiff's time and money -- usually tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to haul him into court.

The notion that an HI should write in passive voice to protect his corporate/LLC status sounds like silly HI folklore to me. Not to be harsh, but it's that kind of screwy thinking that starts an HI down the big-mistake road in the first place. Imagine some poor lug standing over his checklist thinking, "Will I lose my business if I write in active voice?" Once somebody starts thinking that way, he might as well start looking for a different job.

But if anybody really wants to know the legal details on this matter, he should contact a lawyer who understands the HI biz.

WJid="blue">

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Originally posted by admin

Originally posted by qhinspect

Why do you feel it is important to write in the first person? I hear this from different people from time to time and not sure why it is so important.

I have heard that it is a not a good idea to write this way if you are incorporated... you might want the company sued instead of you personally. Of course it won't matter if your not incorporated or don't have a LLC anyway. I was explained that We or It was better than I from that perspective. A question for the E&O experts?

Michael Brown

DevWave Software Inc.

I'm no E&O expert, and I'm no lawyer, although I work with lawyers regularly.

I just can't imagine a situation in which one loses his "corporate veil" because he wrote something like, "I saw a puddy tat," rather than, "a puddy tat was observed."

In my experience, when an HI gets sued -- whether he's running a sole proprietorship, a corp or an LLC -- it's not because he chose to write in active voice. It's because he screwed up the job so egregiously that it's worth the plaintiff's time and money -- usually tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to haul him into court.

The notion that an HI should write in passive voice to protect his corporate/LLC status sounds like silly HI folklore to me. Not to be harsh, but it's that kind of screwy thinking that starts an HI down the big-mistake road in the first place. Imagine some poor lug standing over his checklist thinking, "Will I lose my business if I write in active voice?" Once somebody starts thinking that way, he might as well start looking for a different job.

But if anybody really wants to know the legal details on this matter, he should contact a lawyer who understands the HI biz.

WJid="blue">

I didn't make it up as it was being taught at a Canadian HI conference... don't want the thread to drift but as we write software I would like to get some more opinions on it? There is enough debate over the I... We... It... already but I was wondering about the legal aspect. Could it be a US/CAN difference as we only get some protection from INC in CAN. Some of the CAN orgs actually have their own E&O so I'm not sure if that is also a factor.

Michael Brown

DevWave Software Inc.

http://www.devwave.com

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Originally posted by admin

I didn't make it up as it was being taught at a Canadian HI conference... don't want the thread to drift but as we write software I would like to get some more opinions on it? There is enough debate over the I... We... It... already but I was wondering about the legal aspect. Could it be a US/CAN difference as we only get some protection from INC in CAN. Some of the CAN orgs actually have their own E&O so I'm not sure if that is also a factor.

Michael Brown

DevWave Software Inc.

http://www.devwave.com

Oh, I don't doubt that somebody taught it. HI conferences, along with HI schools and HI books are where HI folklore takes root.

I'm guessing -- just guessing -- that the person who offered that opinion cited no case law, and quoted no reputable sources. In short, the info is likely to have been made up -- not by you, but by somebody else who caught a news flash through his tinfoil helmet.

I'd love to know where the case law is; and, I'd love to know the source of that opinion.

WJid="blue">

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Walter opined my sentiments exactly. Learning something at an HI conference has to be taken w/a grain of salt.

Any statement about liability has to be taken w/a pound of salt. This business is nothing but a bout w/liability.

Most commentary about the *proper* way to write reports should be buried in salt.

Of course, this is a profession where a substantial portion of the practitioner's still make fun of folks trying to spell correctly.

If one doesn't want to spell correctly, imagining syntax and grammar as something that matters is probably asking too much.

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My wife has worked in the legal field for twenty years in three different states and has never seen a legal pleading, audit, appraisal, legal opinion, etc., written in the first person. If lawyers and other professionals do not write in this manner, I can't imagine home inspectors are at any greater risk for liability. That is why I was questioning that comment about using first person.

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Hi,

I think we can all agree that legaleze, by it's very nature, is designed to confound readers. That doesn't mean that we should use legaleze or inspectorspeak in our reports.

Write like you speak. You don't say to the client when you come out of the crawlspace, "It was observed that the vapor barrier needs correction by a crawlspace guy," we say something like, "I found the vapor barrier all dinked up under there, that's not good because blah, blah, blah. Get someone in here who knows what he's doing to straighten it out." If that's what you tell the client, and it's the truth, why wouldn't you write that instead of writing something that doesn't even sound like you speak?

We must write so that the person who's paying for the inspection, the client, will have no question in his/her mind what's wrong, why it's not good for the house, and what we are recommending. All that inspectorspeak does is confuse the reader and it often gives realtors the opening they need to initiate their transaction damage control by insisting that what we mean is what the realtor wants it to mean instead of what it actually is.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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