Topic: Drill and Training
Is the Pen Still Mightier Than the Sword?
Is the Pen Still Mightier Than the Sword?, Major J.M. Walsh, M.C., R.A., The Army Quarterly, Volume LXIV, April and July 1952
The arts of military writing are taught principally, we suppose at the Staff College. Some of our readers will remember the neatly typed precis which urged students to write their writings in the same form as the writing written on the precis itself. We learned about unnumbered sideheadings in blocks and numbered sideheadings not in blocks; of first indents lettered and second indents in little roman numerals; of the correct use of abbreviations and capital letters. We were impressed by the importance of simplicity, of avoiding slang and journalese, and above all, of the virtues of brevity.
But we received a rude shock when we went out into the big military world outside, for we discovered that few people seemed to obey these rules. We found that practically every unit and formation in the British Army had its own particular ideas on how to compose and lay out its correspondence and memoranda (or so it seemed). We learned that the higher the headquarters the more verbose became the signals. We found that sometimes individuals introduced their own idiosyncrasies (we once joined a headquarters in which almost invariably every letter began with the phrase "It is advised that … "). It was all very disappointing to a keen young Staff College graduate anxious to practise his newly acquired skills to find that only lip-service was paid to many of the principles to which he had devoted so much effort to mastering.