Large Loss reports are filled with details, but many of those details are not organized properly, despite the use of subheads throughout the report.
Subheads signal to the reader what is to come. So, a subhead on ATTACHMENTS lists all accompanying documents, such as invoices bids, and inventories of losses from the incident. So too, subhead such as CAUSE OF LOSS and SUBROGATION are helpful because they can be communicated briefly.
The problem of organization occurs frequently within the broad subhead of ADJUSTMENT, especially as you drill down to a sub-subhead such as “What Has Been Done.” Under this category, I find that many paragraphs may be written before a new subhead appears. That means that this subsection of a loss report needs to be written in a way that it can be reread quickly. The way to make sure it can be reread quickly is to present your organizational pattern to the reader (e.g. “In this section, I will discuss several invoices received since the last report; they will include “related and justified, “unrelated” and “those requiring further inquiry.”
You have just given your readers a roadmap of your organization of this section dealing with invoices. The reader now expects that the order to the topic will follow what you have promised in the introduction.
The problem I saw in a recent report, a problem that mirrors many lengthy reports, is that the writer gets so caught up in describing the details surrounding each invoice that the reader is left in the dark about whether he or she is hearing about a related or unrelated invoice.
In this one report, the writer doesn’t mention that the invoice is related until the end. But even if he had started with a subhead such as “Related invoices, the reader might, after reading about several of the invoices, find that he has no handy way of finding out the subject matter of paragraph without having to reread it completely. This can be avoided if the reader uses a little catch phrase or rubric summarizing the issue of the invoice under discussion.
For example, I’ve added a rubric to the opening of the following discussion about an invoice. Then, I’ve gone on to suggest other encapsulations that are very helpful to a reader who needs important information “Called out” at once and not buried in lots of prose:
“Related and Justified Invoices”
“Cleaning the Cooking Heads: An invoice from Mars Industrial Supply has been submitted by the insured and ServiceHelpers (SH). SH and the insured have both submitted it. The insured suggested Mars who they have used in the past. SH say that they called and directed them to clean the cooking heads in the kitchen. The invoice is for $1,829. In my opinion it is reasonable to pay under SH invoice … ”
While the Subhead (Related Invoices) and the rubric (Cleaning the Cooking heads do not make up for the meandering of the paragraph, they do, at least tell the reader immediately that the writer is discussed a related and justified invoice and they neatly encapsulate the topic under discussion (Cleaning the Cooking Heads).
In many reports, the writer would simply start discussing another invoice. For example:
“An invoice for $2,514.74 from Time Construction was submitted by the school for some work recommended by BDR, the school corporations Architect in the Annex Building. We investigated and found it was not claim related. The insured agreed.”
Although, the paragraph is short it suffers from passive language, a missing apostrophe, and an unnecessary capital word (Architect). Most important, the paragraph’s ending divulges that this claim is not claims related. The writer has broken the promise of his organization pattern by suddenly discussing an irrelevant invoice. What can the writer expect from the next paragraph: a discussing about a related invoice? Unrelated? Who knows?
The writer doesn’t specify what the payment of the money is for, so it is difficult to come up with a substantial rubric to use at the beginning of the paragraph. We might have to settle for: Architect-related expenditures.
In brief, a large loss report, which can run to ten pages or more, should follow the advice of the preacher who summed up his technique for giving a sermon as follows: “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. And then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.
Gary Blake is director of the Communication Workshop, a firm devoted to improving the writing skills of businesspeople, most especially claims professionals. Dr. Blake has presented onsite writing seminars as well as online webinars to hundreds of claims professionals. He can be reached at (516) 767-9590, at email@example.com or through his website: www.writingworkshop.com
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