Like math in middle school, this is one of those subjects that we pushed back on, telling ourselves, "I'll never have to use this...", and then quite shockingly finding that it's amazing how much writing we actually do. However, are we doing it well, given the particular circumstances of the writing? We "write" on social media, not being too overly concerned about things like grammar, spelling, or even word choice, falling back on the old, "...you know what I meant...", or blaming auto-correct for the miscommunication.
I'll be the first to admit, I'm not an "expert" at writing, nor am I "the best". But I will say that I am intentional in my writing, and this is something that's led me to...not been the result of...maintaining a blog, and publishing several books, with others in the hopper.
Writing is a necessary skill that many who need to, do not intentionally engage in, and of those who do, very few accept criticism or feedback well. For myself, I have a long history in my career of having to write, which stated in college in the mid-to-late '80s. I was an engineering major, and my English professor said that I wrote "like an English major". To this day, I still don't know what that meant, because I was constantly switching verb tenses in my writing, which was reflected in my grades.
While on active duty, I had to write, and because it was the military, there was feedback..it was part of what we did, so there was no getting away from it, shrinking back and retreating when someone had recommendations. It started in training, with things like operations orders, and continued out "in the fleet", progressing into JAG manual investigations, fitness reports, pro-con assessments, etc. There was all kinds of writing, and there was a LOT of feedback, whether you wanted or liked it, or not.
Another thing that was clear about the writing in that environment was that not everyone received the same feedback, and not everyone took the feedback they received the same way. Very early on in my career, I learned some "truths" about writing fitness reports, particularly from knowledgeable individuals. I reported to my first unit in May 1990, and not long after, a CWO-2 named "Rick" returned from a promotion board at HQMC. He was able (and willing) to act as a confidant and mentor, particularly given not only his longevity in service, but also based on his very recent experience. He not only shared what he'd learned throughout his career, but also the insights he'd learned from the recent promotion panel. I was able to take what I learned from Rick, and use it going forward, but just a couple of years later, I had a SSgt who was applying for the Warrant Officer program, who had some fitness reports written on him that included questionable statements, statements that stood out as being starkly and glaringly counter to what I'd learned.
What I learned on active duty served me very well in the private sector, the biggest lesson being, "...don't get butt hurt when someone says something...". Look beyond the "how" of what's said, to the "what". Don't get so wrapped in the "you were mean to me" emotional response that you miss the gem hidden beyond that will get you over that hump, and allow you to be a better writer. Look beyond your own initial, visceral, emotional response, and closely examine the "what".
Now, if you're posting to social media, you may not care about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. It may not matter, and that's fine. If you're not trying to convey a thought or idea, and you're just "sh*t posting", then it really doesn't matter if the reader understands what you're trying to say.
But what about if you're filling out a ticket, or reporting on an investigation? What if you're actually trying to convey something, because it's "important"? Now, I put the word "important" in quotes, because throughout the passed two decades, I've talked to more than a few in the DFIR community who haven't really grasped how important their communication is, how what they are sharing in a ticket or in a report is actually used by someone else to make a decision, to commit resources (or not), or to levy a fine or punishment. Many analysts never see what's done with their work, they never see corporate counsel or HR, or a regulatory body using what they've written to make decisions.
I've also seen far too many times how a simple, "...what does this mean?" or "...can you clarify which version of Windows you're working with..." is wildly misinterpreted and internalized as, "I'm being called out unfairly."
What Can I Do?
So, what? So, what does this all mean to you, the reader, and what can you do? What I'm going to share here are some of the lessons I've learned over the past three decades...
The first step is to recognize that we can all get better at communicating, and in particular, writing. So, start writing. Comment on posts (Twitter, LinkedIn) rather than simply clicking "Like". Did you like a book you read? Write a review. Ask someone a question about a book they read or about a post they wrote or recommended.
To get better at writing, it's best to read. If you read something that you enjoyed reading, consider why you enjoyed it. Was it the content itself, or the writing style? If it was the writing style, try emulating that style. Is it more formal, clinical, or perhaps more conversational? Consider what works for you, what do you enjoy, and how can you make that part of how you write.
Do not assume any response or feedback you receive is intended to be negative. Yes, I get it...this is the Internet, and there is a lot of negativity, and when you encounter that, the best thing to do is ignore it. But when you receive feedback on something, particularly when it's sought out, don't immediately assume that it's negative, or that you've done something profoundly wrong. Instead, recognize the negative feelings you're having, take a deep breath...and look beyond those feelings and really try to see the "what" beyond the "how". Look for what's being said, beyond how it's being said, or how it makes you feel.