Excerpted from SEAK’s course, “How to Start, Build, and Run a Successful Disability and File Review Practice”
Pivot for a moment to talk about some writing style suggestions. And after we talk about these, we’re gonna go over some specific examples from the materials for this section, which will help drive these points home. All right? So using active voice. All right? So, if all of the sins that writers across all different disciplines make, okay, it’s the inability to use the active voice, where you using a passive voice. And so I don’t know who the actor is. Right? So this is example of a passive voice. No abnormal findings were noted. Okay? So when I read that, I’m thinking who was the one noting the abnormal findings?
So I still have questions, it’s ambiguous. So turn it around. Dr. Smith made no abnormal findings on physical exam. Okay? So now it’s a lot clearer, right? You’ve identified the actor. Or the treatment was given. Again, I may not know what you’re talking about. Okay? Turn it around. Dr. Smith provided the treatment. Okay. So just changing the language in your report, your writing style to identifying passive voice and eliminating it, turning it to active voice, that alone will help make your writing clear. Okay? And you can apply that beyond writing reports for file review cases. Okay? Just identifying the passive voice. And the thing is, everybody does it. I don’t know, but that’s the way the human brain is constructed when you’re writing.
Many people start with the passive voice. I can’t explain it. I can just tell you empirically, I see this problem a lot and just switching it to active voice can dramatically clarify your writing. Okay? We talked about the consistency of the report. And when you’re using boilerplate language, make sure that it actually applies. If you have a cut-and-paste format that you use, make sure you don’t accidentally populate a report with information from another patient. That’s happened before. We’ve all been there. It’s very embarrassing. And it makes you look sloppy and it affects the quality and the confidence that people have in you. Right? So be very careful when using boilerplate language. The use of emphatic language, right?
The only time you should be using an exclamation point is if you’re quoting. Okay? Because if you’re writing using an exclamation point, or you’re using all caps, okay, are you yelling at somebody? That’s how people interpret all caps. All right? I’ll tell you a little story. When I was doing part-time work as a lawyer after I had my twins and this attorney at the office… I was working at home, the attorney at the office asked me to do a research assignment. So, I wrote back to him, he emailed it to me. And so I wrote back to him and said, “Great, you know, happy to do it. Please send me the documents ASAP, A-S-A-P.” I put it in caps, “and I’ll get right on it.”
So he sends me back this email and he CCsthe boss and he says, “You don’t have to yell at me, Dean, you don’t have to be so demanding.” And I was like, “Oh, my God, it’s because I used the word ASAP.” Right? So I had to call him up, “Like, what’s going on? Why are you involving the boss?” And he’s like, “I’m having a bad day. You were yelling at me.” And I’ll never forget it that he interpreted my use of ASAP because I used all caps as yelling. Right?
So that’s how people see it. So you shouldn’t be yelling in your report, right? When you use too much underlining, boldface, points, you know, bolding, when it comes to your opinion, that can be distracting to the reader. And it also makes the reader feel like, is that the only important part of the report, or is there another part that I need to look at? Right? So be judicious in your use of those modifiers.