Just the Facts, Ma’am

Useful lessons from a surprising source.

via Utne Reader:

The Art of the Police Report
A Los Angeles cop writes “just the facts” and still tells one helluva story

Crime reports are written in neutral diction, and in the dispassionate uni-voice that’s testament to the academy’s ability to standardize writing. They feel generated rather than authored, the work of a single law enforcement consciousness rather than a specific human being.

So how can I identify Martinez from a single sentence? Why do his reports make me feel pity, terror, or despair? Make me want to put a bullet in someone’s brain—preferably a wife beater’s or a pedophile’s, but occasionally my own? How does he use words on paper to hammer at my heart? Like all great cops, Sergeant Martinez is a sneaky fucker. He’s also a master of inflection and narrative voice.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Just the Facts, Ma’am

  1. Hey, that’s good advice for writers! Thanks!

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