Susannah’s blog

Civil servants need writing training

Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire

Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire


Whatever your views on Michael Gove’s Ditchley lecture last weekend, the bit that pleased me was his inclusion of writing training in the list of measures needed by the civil service.

Mr Gove, the minister responsible for the civil service and previously responsible for education, said:

“We know already from evidence of what works in education that mastery of deep knowledge is the precondition of creativity and open-mindedness.”

He went on:

“if those in government have deep subject knowledge they move from reciters of the jargon generated by producer interests into the creators of original policy that serve the widest possible public interest.”

Mr Gove said the civil service needed:

“a proper, and properly-resourced campus for training those in government. One which is not preoccupied with the latest coaching theology or sub-business school jargon but equips the many hugely talented people within the civil service to become as knowledgeable in their public areas as consultant surgeons, chancery barristers and biochemistry professors are in theirs.”

“And, more than that, we need to ensure that basic writing, meeting chairing and time management skills are de rigueur for all policy civil servants.”

Basic writing was traditionally a strength of the civil service. The ability to produce a clear, concise argument was supposed to enable ministers to take decisions based on the available evidence and the pros and cons of a particular policy.

I don’t know whether civil servants have become “reciters of jargon”. They would not be alone in that. But every now and then the case for basic writing needs to be made. It’s the foundation of all our communication and, even more important, our decision-making.

Why not sign up for some training in basic writing? It will help you produce clear, concise text in any medium.

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