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learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...

about the subject — that your paper is complete; and finally, edit and proofread as many

times as possible to ensure correctness.

If you seem to have particular trouble with one or two of the principles, spend extra

time on the most troublesome. It’s easy for me to tell you these things, but the proof

comes when the boss tells you to write a fact sheet and have it on his desk the next

morning. You can never anticipate all the variables that may occur, but you can be sure

that there will be some short suspenses and deadly deadlines you’ll have to cope with in

your writing.

Keep in mind that there’s no magic formula for writing, and that the ability to write

well is not something you’re born with. While some writers seem to have a “natural” ability,

most of the authors who have written anything about writing have admitted that it’s

hard work, and they have to struggle with words even after years of successful writing.

If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so

wonderful at all.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BASICS

Four Levels of Knowledge

20

— Michelangelo

1) Know what you know; 2) Know what you don’t know; 3) Don’t know what you

know; 4) Don’t know what you don’t know.

To be precise as an intelligence writer, you must know the limits of your information

and where gaps in the data lie (that is, know what you know and what you don’t know). If

you know neither of those essential elements, then don’t try to disguise that fact by writing

imprecisely.

What We Write, Others Don’t Always Read

I wrote a draft description for a new course offering to be placed in the College Catalog.

My intention was to write that it was based on “an existing course,” but instead I

typed exiting course on my word processor. The spellchecker read that as a perfectly good

word, but my boss caught the typographical error. I had left for a two-week trip; so he corrected

it to read the way he thought it should: “. . . based on an exciting course.

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