I have the same problem with my coworkers. Every conference I have gone to has told us to document a decel as early, late or variable but all of my coworkers go nuts when I tell them this. They refuse to document this way and berate me if I do.
Soooo, this is what I have been doing. We have a flow sheet that has a space for decels and the appropriate entry is either "P" or "0". I then write in the narrative: FHR baseline 120's, average variability (which is already documented in the flowsheet). At (specific time) FHR decel to 80's X 20 seconds with immediate return to baseline. OR "FHR baseline 120's, average variability with FHR decel to 80's beginning 30 seconds after the beginning of a 60 second contraction, decel lasted 50 seconds with return to baseline of 120's over a 30 second period of time" Heck of a lot of verbage that could be easily charted as: "Late decel at (time) to 80's lasting 50 seconds with 30 second recovery".
If it is a strip in which I have variables over and over again, I may chart "FHR variable decels continue as earlier described".
Always chart in your narrative what you did about the decels. Pt turned to L/R side, O2 at 10LPM applied, pitocin decreased, MD notified, etc... ALSO, ALWAYS chart when the MD came and looked at the strip: "MD at bedside, EFM reviewed, no new orders (MD instructed writer to leave pitocin at current rate). Remember, it is your job to notifiy the MD of anything out of the ordinary - let them rant, rave, yell, scream, roll their eyes at you, etc... Then tell them "I just have to make sure that you are aware of...." then document that you made them aware of whatever, and be specific.
Probably more info than you were looking for, but good luck.