Saturday, July 04, 2009

Writing Well Still Matters

A few months ago, I left work in retail to venture into the security field, which is no small feat for someone old enough to be a grandma. Security work had always interested me and since the protagonist in my new mystery series is also in security, I figured the experience would be great book research.

My writing background and verbal skills helped me land the job, and I’m currently placed at a university campus populated by thousands of students and instructors from all over the world. As you can imagine, I talk to a lot of people. Security officers are also required to keep detailed, written records of every incident, small and large, because an incident could result in a court appearance one day. Needless to say, recording information accurately is crucial. Security officers are taught to record who, what, where, why and when during incidents. A lot of guards, though, have trouble writing this basic information.

The importance of written communication skills in security work was magnified when I was promoted to the communications centre to type dispatches and prepare reports for the client. Part of my job is to fix grammatical and spelling errors on officers’ and supervisors’ reports and, trust me, it usually involves plenty of work.

No matter how technologically advanced our society becomes, it’ll mean little without adequate communication skills to share ideas and information. I work with a lot of intelligent people who can’t write a simple sentence because they're new immigrants and English isn’t their first language. And there are a handful of Canadian-born guards who were raised speaking English, yet don’t care about writing period. Some of these people can barely write at a grade four or five level which is sad because they have little hope of improving their income. I’ve heard that there are plenty of high school graduates who couldn’t pass a basic English entrance exam to university either. I’ll leave the reasons to the education experts.

The point is that writing well still matters. After all, someone had to write the scripts for all of those computer games. I’m not suggesting that we all have to write well enough to be novelists or English majors, but an understanding of the basics and some serious practice would go a long way toward achieving one’s true potential. Let’s face it, all of the gadgets, toys, and opportunities in the world won’t help if you can’t write a simple, clear sentence. And I’m not sure enough people have figured that out yet.

To read excerpts of Fatal Encryption and Taxed to Death, visit

Fatal Encryption is available through at and Taxed to Death can be found at

1 comment:

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author & marketing coach said...

Sadly, this is oh so true, Debra. I have run into many cases where I have to resist temptation to get out the red editing pen. Most often it's a matter of simple sentence or paragraph construction.

It seems at some point English teachers skip over editing grammar and structure in favor of praising the student for the subject matter that he or she has written about. Yes, students need encouragement, but not at the expense of learning to write correctly and well. Sometimes we need to get back to basics.

Writing skills are something needed in most jobs and all careers. In many instances, it can mean the difference between minimum wage and a high-paying job with benefits.