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  • Julie Sumner

What, When, How: Part 3

Let's Talk About the How!


How to document is probably the hardest topic of this three-part series. Documenting does not, however, have to be harder than necessary. You want to answer the basic questions:

  • What happened?

  • Who was involved?

  • Where did it happen?

  • When did it happen?

  • How did it happen?

  • Why did it happen?*

Provide as many details as possible. Focus on FACTS. *Do not guess, make assumptions, or hypothesize. Write down only what you know for certain.


Be as objective as possible. Use fact-based descriptions. For example, there is a difference between: “He became angry” and “His face turned bright red, he stood up from his chair, pointed his finger in my face, and yelled: ‘This is bullsh*t!’”. The first is subjective; the second is objective. You want to paint a picture with your words, so that whoever is reading your documentation (could be someone two years from now) can tell exactly what happened without having to track you down to explain it.


Write for a stranger. Write as though someone with no familiarity with your company, your job, or your industry will be reading it. It is very easy to fall into using industry jargon, nicknames, company shorthand, etc., but that can make things confusing down the line.


Take the time to proofread. It only takes an extra minute, but it is worth it. One misspelled word or “auto-correct” (which always seems to be wrong) can make the meaning of what you wrote meaningless. Don’t waste your hard work by not taking the time to catch silly mistakes.


Use the easiest, most effective method possible. If a picture will suffice, take it! If a video works best, shoot it! If a speech-to-text saves time, go for it! Think about what method will most effectively and accurately portray what you are trying to capture (ha! No pun intended). Speaking of Capture . . . you can use any and all of these methods within a single report! Try it out today!


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