Simply put, grammar shapes the systems of a language. It explains the forms and structures of words (morphology) and how they are supposed to be arranged in sentences (syntax). These rules help us more easily understand each other.
Recommended Grammar for Reports
Grammar is more than just understanding how to avoid mistakes. It is necessary so that one can become a skilled writer and speaker. An effective police officer should have grasp of the basic components of English grammar so as to make reports free from mistakes. Remember, mistakes in your report could mean the dismissal of your case or even a case against you.
Fundamental Elements of Grammar
The following is a brief review of the different parts of speech.
A noun (Latin nomen, “name”) is a word that is used to identify anything that can be named or tells you what is being talked about.
These are identifying words used instead of a noun, i.e. substitutes for nouns.
A verb connotes an action, state, or occurrence. It forms the main part of the predicate of a sentence.
An adjective is any word that describes a noun or pronoun.
Articles help us understand how specific a noun is.
Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
A preposition is a word that describes the relationship between two words in space.
Subjects and Predicates
A subject is a person, place, idea, or thing described, discussed, or otherwise dealt with in a sentence. It can be a noun or pronoun together with all of the modifiers that tag along with it and it can be found at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.
To complete a sentence, every verb must have a subject. A verb that expresses an action has a who or what subject. Not all verbs are action verbs because they can be linking or helping verbs which connect the subject to something that refers to the subject.
This refers to the matching in number of the subject and the verb. In other words, they have to agree whether they have to be in plural or singular form.
Writing Clearly and Logically
Effective police reports must be informative, clear, organized, and logical. It must also present all relevant information in the simplest manner that is understandable to the reader.
These are the structural units for grouping information. Regardless of whether the investigation report is written in a narrative style or a category style, all paragraphs must be clear and easy to understand. Each paragraph’s first statement (lead-in statement) should clearly describe the paragraph’s main topic or issue. Within the paragraph, the lines should contain facts, ideas, justifications, or examples that are directly related to the main theme.
These connect different ideas, sentences, or paragraphs. Writers can assist their readers through the narrative by using the appropriate transitional words or phrases throughout the report.
The following are some examples of transitions. They are grouped according to type.
- in the meantime
- at the same time
- prior to
Example: Jimenez said he noticed that the door was not completely shut, so he decided to find out why. Immediately after entering the room, he saw that the window was broken.
- next to
Example: Jimenez said he saw broken glass on the floor under the window. Near the glass, he saw a large brick.
- in addition
Example: In addition, Jimenez saw his laptop was not on the desk where he left it the night before.
Concrete vs Abstract Words
As already mentioned, reports should be written as simple as possible. As such, the use of abstract words or phrases is not encouraged. Instead, a report writer must use concrete words that clearly relay information and address relevant questions.
These are words that sound similar, but have different meanings. It is important to ensure that the correct words are being used in every sentence, so this is something to watch out for.
Words: accept vs except
- accept means to take with approval or agree to
- except means to omit or exclude; it can also be used as a preposition to mean “but”
- I accepted the medal with pride.
- We did everything except interview the witnesses.
This is the process of reviewing a report for accuracy, clarity, and completeness. It is a rather difficult skill to learn, but it cannot be overlooked.
When proofreading, special care should be taken to ensure that the following basic questions are answered
- Are the correct crimes cited in the report?
- Is the information in the proper order?
- Are all crime elements articulated?
- Based on the officer’s field notes, are the facts of the case correct?
- Is the report well-organized?
- Are all necessary information included?
- Are things said efficiently or too wordy?
- Are all conclusions supported by facts?
- Are there any gaps in logic?
- Are the names spelled correctly?
A report’s effectiveness and a reporter’s credibility can be damaged by a report with too many mechanical errors.
When proofreading a written report, it is important to look for the following:
- inappropriate use of nouns, pronouns, verbs, etc.
- vague or confusing language
- incorrect or inappropriate use of words
- gaps in logic or narrative flow
- spelling errors
- inappropriate punctuation
- incorrect use of police, fire, or EMS abbreviations
- overuse of words, such as “that”
Remember that the above points are only guidelines. It does not necessarily mean that your checks end at these guide questions and statements.
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