Handwriting for DCSA investigators

Got an e-mail last week telling me that some of my handwritten notes were hard to read and that I used some unapproved abbreviations. Has anyone else had this happen to them? I’ve been a contractor on the DCSA contract with one of the “big 3” companies for about three years now. Never had this happen before, never heard of it happening to another investigator. No discipline, just ‘use better handwriting going forward.’ But it was ominous. I believe I am a diligent and thorough investigator; I ask all the questions and strive to fully resolve every issue. I don’t cut corners. But here it is in 2022 and I could lose my job (or at least I am worried I will) because of bad penmanship. Madness.

Sounds like you got audited and I assume it was more than the basic run through. I’ve been spoken too a couple times over the years about illegible notes. Interesting about the abbreviations though, did they give any examples?

I had that happen to me when I was a contractor. Nothing happened afterwards. Those companies are so desperate for quality investigators, they would probably enroll you in penmanship classes before firing you. I wouldn’t worry about it


First time? I was spoken to about my handwriting as a contractor several times. Contractors were not supposed to use an abbreviations - I was surprised abbreviations were taught in the fed training.

I grew up in a cursive writing age - sorry auditor.

BTW - never once has anyone said anything negative about my notes/handwriting since becoming a fed.


I got flagged once for using the abbreviation of San Fran for San Francisco. I audibly laughed when my supervisor called and told me that.


The company has a multi-page memo of “examples” of acceptable and unacceptable abbreviations. WORTH NOTING: drawing a smiley face is not an acceptable abbreviation for “happy.” Some HQ person got paid to write that!

The nonsense we put up with for a well-paying WFH job with extremely flexible hours is off the charts. Beats punching a time clock though.


My handwriting is fine, but the absolute nonsense I write as subjects word vomit their random stories would make absolutely no sense to anyone but me.


They do randomly audit for the most ridiculous reasons. We just have to accept that we are micromanaged and the expectations are borderline insanity. I’ve been doing my job for almost 18 years so I would like to think I know what I am doing. My team leader talks me down like I’m a five year old and review is a joke. Their reopens can be so undermining, if you notice how they word things, treating us like we’re just buffoons. So yes, we do have to go through poor treatment, but to know they just couldn’t resist coming after you for poor penmanship and abbreviation use is just crazy. You would think they would have better things to do.


If sloppy handwriting and abbreviations is the only complaint they have on you…it is indeed laughable. The expectations of complete human investigator perfection are indeed quite ludicrous at times. I remember once being contacted by IA because I had written down apartment 2D instead of 2B. B’s and D’s sound quite similar when spoken. Accepting human faults and imperfections isn’t something some of the IA inspectors/reinvestigators take into consideration.


It’s not even so much that we are human and make mistakes unknowingly or have sloppy handwriting or shorten San Fransisco as ‘San Fran’, it’s the demeaning manner in the way they will word their notices to us. The wording, verbiage and language is unnecessary. We’re people. We’re not perfect and we’re writing a hundred miles a minute while listening to and trying to resolve lord knows how many issues on top of trying to squeeze in as many interviews a day to appease management and then type and transmit said interviews as we go to again appease management. We are nothing more than pawns treated like pure doo doo at times. The whole industry is just becoming one big joke.


I wholeheartedly agree! I’m actually at the point were I hate my job so much I have a hard time having any motivation to do it. Time to get out because it will never get any better, it just gets worse. Also, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the “big wigs” in federal government, such as the current occupants of the white house and those in the highest positions in government freely do unethical things yet we have to harp on some poor lowly subject and do issue resolution over a speeding ticket they got 10 years ago, a medical bill on credit report for $50, a disciplinary action for showing up to work late one time, and the list goes on and on and on over what we have to beat up the subject’s about.


It helps me to think of myself as the person aiding the Subject in this investigative process and helping them to understand and navigate the process with a sympathetic empathetic manner. We really just translate and explain the Subject’s life into adjudicator friendly format without accusing or harping. Think of yourself more as a facilitator for the Subject. It feels better and I believe they are more cooperative/responsive. Remember, elected and appointed “big wig” positions in federal government don’t require ethics, they only require popularity and votes. They can also lose their jobs more easily and quickly than anyone with a “little guy” clearance.


You are not alone. I have a friend that had one of these audits. Without giving away too many details (as that person’s supervisor may be on this forum), the follow-up was a lecture/listing of all of the problems with reading their notes. No repercussions after the brow-beating on the phone. As mentioned, Really? This is what’s important to the company?

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Legible handwritten Case Notes are not audited to determine whether an Investigator’s penmanship is that of an Calligrapher or something, rather an Investigator’s handwritten Case notes are retained for a certain time period after the Case is complete and during that brief interim time period the actual Subject of Investigation (and others) can request all notes on the Case to include an Investigator’s handwritten notes under a FOIA/PA provision and request. If a Subject or other Official cannot read your handwritten notes, it would be an issue for sure. However, most people don’t even know this is an option. I’ve submitted a FOIA on my own reinvestigation right after my Subject Interview to ensure I can see everthing to include the Investigator’s handwritten notes.

The audit of handwritten notes is a required part of the process for everyone whether Government or Contractor, however I doubt the Contract Companies are in compliance with their timeframes. No one can destroy handwritten notes for a specific timeframe according to regulation, after the “hold” period ends…all notes are destroyed immediately or should be.

@CrazyForts- I’m sure your handwritten notes are not that bad at all and you are not going to get fired for one “chat” about notes (you would need to be actually written up 3X’s at least for the same issue without any progress,) take your Manager’s advice and just clean them up a bit for legibility purposes. In the past, I always wrote my handwritten notes in a version of “Investigator shorthand” and did this my entire career without an issue, no need for complete grammatical sentences or anything crazy. The abbreviations are flagged because a “layman” needs to understand their meaning regardless of the fact that Investigators & Contract Staff all clearly understand your notes. Good luck! Simple changes!