In today’s society, everyone knows what a document is.

After all, documents are used routinely for all manner of purpose. Documents that most people would recognize include typed, hand-printed, handwritten, or produced using commercial processes. Letters, contracts, newspapers, magazines, and all manner of items are documents. A common definition might be something like:

a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type

Cambridge Dictionary Online

Forensic document examiners, however, apply a broader definition. We define a document as “any material bearing marks, signs, or symbols, whether visible or not, intended to convey a message or meaning to someone.” Clearly, that definition includes all normal documents, but extends it quite a bit.

This means a few things.

First, almost anything can become a document whether or not it was intended to serve as a document in the first place.

Second, a document examiner must be trained to deal with a lot of different instruments, marking materials, and substrates.

Third, a document examiner must be trained to assess a wide variety of events that may affect different types of documents, before, during, or after their initial production.

All in all, it contributes to the complexity of the work of a forensic document examiner.

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