If there is one big issue in the military that very few people ever discuss, it would be the poor writing skills that most Soldiers, NCOs and Officers have. Evaluate most Officers, NCOs and young Soldiers and you will quickly discover that very few of them are good at writing and writing comprehension. This is by no means exclusive to the military. Writing is an issue that MANY people struggle with, inside and outside of the military.
I’m not sure if schools are doing a bad job at teaching people how to write effectively, or if social media, texting and email have negatively influenced us. Whatever the case, most people could use a refresher course on “writing 101.”
If you want to excel your military career, one of the best things you can do is improve your writing skills. In other words, learn how to write awards, how to write OPORDs, how to write NCOERs and OERs, etc. This one thing can help you launch your career and stand out in the crowd.
Let’s face it, whether you are a Field Grade Officer or junior NCO, you have lots of paperwork to handle. You have to put Soldiers in for awards. You have to write evaluation reports. You have to write briefs and OPORDs. You have to write risk assessments. And on and on and on.
And if you’re like most military leaders, you DO NOT excel in this area. For you, writing is a struggle. You don’t know how to express your thoughts into words on paper.
To be quite frank with you, I used to be the same way. Writing was not one of my skills. For many years I HATED to read and write. But fortunately, I learned a few lessons early in my officer career that helped me improve my military writing skills.
What I want to do in the rest of this post is share some tips with you that I’ve learned in my career, to help you be a better military writer.
# 1 Write More
Without a doubt, the single greatest thing I did to become a better military writer was to write more. One of the simplest things you can do is write more awards. Write more evaluation reports. Write more briefs. The more you do, the better you will get. I have evolved significantly, in just a few short years. You too can do the same thing. Whatever you do, don’t avoid writing. Writing is a perishable skill. The less you do the worse you will get.
# 2 Take a Class on Writing
If you’re like most folks, you haven’t had a class on writing since your freshman year of college (if you went to college) or in high school. Most of these skills (just like anything else) are perishable. One of the best things you can do is enroll in a local community college and take a class or two on writing. I know this will help you a lot. You will get remedial and refresher training and get plenty of homework and assignments to do, which will give you plenty of practice and help you improve.
# 3 Teach an OPD/NCODP on Military Writing
Another great tip to improve your military writing skills is to teach an OPD or NCODP on effective military writing. The major benefit of teaching a class on this subject is that you will have to do your research and prepare for the class. I’ve found that the teacher normally learns more than the students. By teaching others, you will improve your own skills in the process.
# 4 Read Books on Military Writing
- Army Writing Guide: How to Write NCOERs and Awards
- Guide to Effective Military Writing, 3rd Edition
- Military Writing: The New Leader’s Guide
You can own all three of these books for about $50. I consider it a smart investment in your military education. Read each book, take notes, and share what you learn with others.
There you have it folks. These are four simple things you can do to improve your military writing skills. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to improve your own writing skills. Knowing how to write effectively can make a big difference in your military career, especially as you move up through the enlisted or Officer ranks. The bottom line is to take responsibility and develop your writing skills. It won’t happen by accident.
What are your thoughts? What would you suggest someone do to improve their military writing skills? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.