The AGS Guide to Good Practice in Writing Ground Reports has had a 2015 up-date and is now free to download, please click here.
Given that a large proportion of the product that AGS members sell is in the form of written reports, it is vital that this product is fit for purpose. Not only must reports be technically correct and prepared with due care and diligence, they should also look professional and act as an advert for the quality and competence of the author(s) and the Company publishing it.
The AGS guide provides advice to report authors and reviewers on report style, language and definitions. There is a considerable amount of detailed help on these issues in the appendices to the report that staff at all levels in member firms are well advised to read (and to return to).
Although the technical advice in our reports may be sound and competent, the value of that advice can be seriously devalued by some simple common errors in language, formatting, spelling or grammar. These errors often disproportionately adversely affect the perceived quality of the whole report including its technical competence and the advice presented.
My own magnificent seven “favourites” are;
1. Bullet points that do not follow the sense of the introductory phrase.
Activities on site comprise;
– There are unbunded oil storage tanks on site,
– A security guard with a big Alsatian.
2. Very long sentences with multiple verbs and subjects and which cannot be read without pausing for breath.
3. Sentences with no verb at all (and therefore make no sense).
An investigation report dated 2012 as part of a desk study.
4. The spurious use of capital letters.
A Total of fifteen Samples were analysed for a range of Determinands and Geotechnical Properties.
5. The use of vernacular or local dialect in written reports.
He should of ensured samples were taken.
I instructed the driller to carry out SPTs at 1m intervals innit.
My unofficial record is seeing “the site” fourteen times in eight lines of text.
7. Incorrect use of apostrophes.
Apostrophes are used to indicate possession or missing letters. They are not used in plurals [PAH’s] or because there probably is’ one in the sentence somewhere so with any luck you will get it in the right place.
When writing a report (or indeed any official document) if in doubt about phrasing, terminology, spelling or grammar;
i. Use the AGS Guide,
ii. Refer to a dictionary, thesaurus and guide to grammar (e.g. Fowlers) as appropriate, and
iii. Read (and enjoy) Eats, shoots & leaves (Lynne Truss).
And final, please advertise the free availability of the AGS Guide to Good Practice in Writing Ground Reports to all staff in your Company.
Prepared by Hugh Mallett, Loss Prevention Working Group Chair