A Sentence with Two Problems

This sentence from a police report has two problems. Can you spot them?

The suspect then entered the store, the surveillance does not show the suspect placing items in his backpack; however, footage shows Smith approaching the suspect at approximately 2027  hours.

1. There’s too much information crammed into the sentence. In police reports, short sentences are almost always better than long ones. (That’s often true of other writing tasks as well.)

What do you gain by writing a long, sophisticated sentence? Nothing – and you run the risk of errors. (If you noticed the comma splice, congratulations! There should be a period after entered the store.)

2. 2027 hours is NOT an approximate time. It’s exact. Use “approximate” only with rounded off times: “about 2030 hours.”

Here’s my version. I deleted however even though it’s correct. It’s another complication you don’t need. Crisp, simple sentences are your best choices for police reports.

The suspect entered the store. The surveillance does not show the suspect placing items in his backpack. Footage shows Smith approaching the suspect at 2027  hours.

a red backpack


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