I am writing a formal document. It is a petition to appeal an administrative law decision. The decision is jam-packed full of sloppy mistakes of every kind imaginable. (The guy who wrote it couldn't even manage to spell the name of my town correctly in the title of the document.) I list all the errors and inaccuracies in my appeal petition, with specific references to pages in the hearing transcript and exhibits. But I want to preface the list with something that means the following:

A number of the problems noted might seem rather insignificant, but I will list them all, to show the review officer how incredibly sloppy the decision is. OR: what a slapdash job the hearing officer did in analyzing the case and writing up the decision.

Only I can't say "incredibly sloppy", I need more formal language. I need a more subtle way of saying sloppy.

I don't mind making adjustments in my sample sentence to accommodate a different part of speech or whatever.

Note, the following question is somewhat related but doesn't. A word for not paying attention to detail, causing sloppiness.

One idea:

A number of the problems noted might seem rather insignificant, but I will list them all, to show the review officer the shocking lack of care taken in analyzing the case and documenting the decision.

Another idea:

The hearing officer's slapdash [or: haphazard] analysis and write-up resulted in erroneous references and errors of fact that are too numerous to list in the space allowed. I will only be able to provide corrections for a portion.

  • 5
    How about "careless," or "careless with details?" Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:16
  • 11
    I would just say it "contains many errors and inaccuracies." Don't use words that imply a value judgment, like "sloppy", "shocking," "careless", "hasty", "lachadaisical", "ham-handed," etc
    – alephzero
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 22:00
  • 1
    Perhaps "the decision, as written, is a poor reflection of the events." Which, if properly bolstered, would hopefully be read as reflects poorly on the writer and his writing skills, without actually saying that. (Ditto above, which was a cross post)
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 22:13
  • 10
    The title says "more neutral" but the question seems to be asking for "more formal" which is a different thing. Neutral involves a lack of judgement or opinion. Formal involves a lack of casual or conversational tone. If neutrality is the goal, then "just the facts" is the way to go. "The report contains [insert # here ] factually incorrect statements, errors, and inaccuracies." As soon as you start saying that the report as a whole is unreliable because of the errors, you're moving from facts to opinion, and that is why you're not going to find a neutral word that means sloppy.
    – barbecue
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 22:13
  • 2
    I know this is not an answer, but if that appeal is of any importance, you might want to ask the advice of a lawyer.
    – rob
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 9:34

14 Answers 14


You could describe the situation thusly:

This decision is misguided because it's based on an inaccurate report. The report is littered with errors which grossly misrepresent the true state of matters.

No need to blame the officer directly, simply emphasizing the poor quality of the report will sufficiently imply blame without any unprofessional accusations.

  • 1
    +1 This is I think the only answer here which doesn´t blame someone for being careless. This is important. OP is angry, but anger will get them nowhere. I think even the language in this answer needs toning down a bit for maximum success. Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 21:22
  • Interesting -- littered is very similar to strewn! Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 6:34

Sometimes, simplicity is the best approach.

The problems noted might seem rather insignificant, but I will list them all, to show the review officer how strewn with innumerable errors the decision is.

For a harsher sounding approach

The problems noted may appear insignificant to an outsider, but in order to clarify my dismay at the decision, the most significant and shoddiest errors will be listed.

P.S the past participle of strew is also strewed

P.P.S Deleted previous second suggestion, see edit history, in light of recent edits made by the OP.

  • 5
    I've always heard strewn rather than strewed. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:19
  • 1
    @DougWarren yes, I was dithering about that too. But both forms are used.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:20
  • Simplicity is always the best approach. ;-)
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:22
  • 1
    I almost edited your answer. This is one of those cases we were talking about on Meta -- maybe my intuition here is fallible! It's just that I have never heard or seen "strewed" until I found it in the dictionary just now. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:27
  • 4
    Ham-handed has the same tone, for me, as sloppy. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:27

A word to consider is hasty. One, it offers to account for the careless surface errors allowed through by the neglect of sentence-level editing and revision, while at the same time seeming generously to excuse them—almost—since being overly busy is a badge of honor in today’s American office culture. Two, it suggests that the decision expressed under all those errors was itself not properly thought through. Inferring the second from the first would seem to be precisely the leap you would wish for your reader to make, and this term provides a kind of a stepping-stone between them.

You can of course experiment with intensifiers, qualifiers/hedges, or both, as in somewhat over-hasty, till you hit the tone best suited, not for the venting of your feelings, but for the winning over of your reader.


I think you're chasing a synonym when you really need a larger edit to make the passage sound more neutral in general. After that, neutral terms and phrases fit right in.

Your first idea sounds right when pared down a bit:

A number of tSome of the problems noted might seem rather insignificant individually, but I will list them all together, show the review officer the shocking lack of care taken in analyzing the case and documenting the decision.

And more readable:

Some of the problems noted might seem insignificant individually, but all together, show the lack of care taken in analyzing the case and documenting the decision.

  • 5
    I think you've changed the meaning of the sentence. It's not that all of them are insignificant when taken in isolation; it's just that some (many?) are. By my reading, some of the errors are gross in their own right, but the sheer number of errors is additional evidence of carelessness.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 6:21

How about "not rigorous". For fields where precision is paramount, lack of rigor is bad.

You could say the "the decision process lacked rigor" or similar.


How about inattention to detail?

Your example, reworded:

A number of the problems noted might seem rather insignificant, but I will list them all, to demonstrate the administrative law judge's inattention to detail in analyzing the case and writing up the decision.

Bottom line: The judge's inattention to detail raises serious questions about the thoroughness, thoughtfulness, and dedication to justice of his (or her) decision. If he (or she) doesn't care enough about the case to ensure that basic facts and their presentation are correct, how can we have any confidence in his (or her) ultimate decision?


I was thinking "untidy" but in this context I agree with those above who say "careless".

This is based on this definition of "careless": "not giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors." (https://www.google.com/search?q=define+careless).

You explicitly mention his errors, and sloppiness can be interpreted as "not giving sufficient attention" to his task, in this case the administrative decision.

The definitions for careless at Dictionary.com reinforce the appropriateness of this word:

  1. not paying enough attention to what one does:
  2. not exact, accurate, or thorough:
  3. done or said heedlessly or negligently; unconsidered:
  4. not caring or troubling; having no care or concern; unconcerned (usually followed by of, about, or in)

The word "lackadaisical" is defined by oxforddictionaries.com as

Lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy

  • 1
    Good start, thank you. I need a stronger word. Lackadaisical conveys to me the idea that it doesn't matter to the writer that he made careless errors. It should matter a lot to the hearing officer, as a sign of respect to his own position! Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 19:51
  • 1
    Or some of the synonyms of lackadaisical...slipshod, haphazard, heedless, .... There are so many possible words. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 21:12
  • @hatchet - half-assed, if one want to be clear about one's meaning. ;)
    – stevesliva
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 3:50

If I wanted to say that the writer of the report had failed to perform his required duties appropriately and produced a sub-par report, I might say it was negligent of him. This is not a neutral word, but it is a formal one, and is in fact a legal term.


I am not sure if there is a neutral synonym of sloppy, partly because sloppy implies bad and partly because, well, neutrality can be subjective - your choicest euphemism may still offend the recipient. In any case, I believe it should be amply clear that you are only questioning the documentation and not the decision itself (as that seems to be your requirement).
Here comes my suggestion: ill documented

... but I will list them all, to show the review officer how ill documented the decision is.



1 [usually in combination] Badly, wrongly, or imperfectly:

‘the street is dominated by ill-lit shops’

‘This question is rather abstract, but it serves to demonstrate how ill defined ‘harmful to minors’ may be.’

  • The funny thing is, he managed to put specific references (page numbers from the transcript and exhibits) in parentheses after each klunker, but many of the page numbers are wrong. When he got the page number right, he misunderstood what appeared on the referenced page. Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 7:11

The decision is perfunctory:

perfunctory -

  1. performed merely as a routine duty; hasty and superficial
  2. lacking interest, care, or enthusiasm; indifferent or apathetic


This is of particular use to describe how one performs their duties.

As an aside, if you want idioms for how the job was performed, the question {Alternative idiom to "phone it in"} has several.

  • Sorry for the belated answer. I am distressed by the perfunctory nature of all of the other responses. This word should have been advocated for by now.
    – stevesliva
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 4:01
  • Please don't be distressed. I haven't submitted my document yet. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 14:58

You should step back and tell everyone the idea you are trying to get across. It looks like you're trying to say the officer failed to meet your expectations in the effort they applied.

There are multiple ways to go about this. In such formal writing, you probably need to come across strongly but in a courteous way. Don't try to categorise the officer, only:

  • their actions,
  • your perceptions of your actions,
  • your perception of their obligations, and
  • your expectations.

You're already on track "..the decision is", highlighting their actions.

If there is an official declaration or procedure, you can reference that. "The officer failed to meet the expectations of your charter for a full investigation".

Failing that, you probably need to retreat to your expectations.

With the adjusted perspective, you can use stronger words, which better convey the emotion of your problem.

It's seems like this is in the domain of judgement, there are specific words that should be used.

  • Unfair
  • Biased
  • Unjust
  • Lacking prudence
  • Sham
  • all a show
  • etc.

Further words to consider (beyond my focused reasoning above):

  • lazy
  • incompetent
  • heartless
  • incomplete
  • not thorough enough
  • dismissive

"uncombed and littered with mistakes"

In this you describing the problem that someone has created through their negligence and taking away the judgmental sting associated with the word sloppy...

To my mind your right in changing it as Sloppy is both descriptive of the work and the person, your likely to get better gains out of them if you narrow it to something that parses the difference and places emphasis on what they have done or in this case not done, than leaving it open to something that could be read as descriptive of them as a person.

On second thoughts though a one word answer as suggested above in the comments

careless / negligent

  • Negligent sounds promising. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:26

The complainer should not mention the hearing officer’s “slapdash job” of adjudicating the case. That determination falls to a higher-level authority than the hearing officer. But “writing up the decision” is another matter. I would write: “The hearing officer failed to meet communication expectations that are required in the service of the law. Evidentiary instances are: … (your examples)”.

  • You think "slapdash" doesn't fit, despite a ton of typos, grammar mistakes, erroneous references and factual mistakes, such as what grade the child was in when various key things happened (such as receiving a key diagnosis)? Or is it more a matter of maintaining a respectful attitude? If so, I guess you're saying I need to use code language? // Can you explain if your answer is just based on your knowledge of English, or also on Law? Thank you very much. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 8:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.