There was some discussion last night and this morning on the twitter about training lab peeps to write. People of all ranks come into a lab with varying writing ability - sometimes an undergrad will have rare clarity whereas a postdoc appears to write with a ball pein hammer. How do you get people to at least approach a viable level of written communication?
The answer, of course, is practice. No one ever likes that answer, but it's true. You need to read and write a lot to be proficient at it and some of it can be picked up in grad school and some can't without a shit ton of work.
One of the ways I try and get people to think about what they are writing is by avoiding track changes in the early stages. Don't get me wrong, I think track changes is great. But the ability to breeze through and accept everything without thinking about why, is waaaaaay too easy. So I mark up a hard copy and send it back. This may happen again, depending on where the piece is at, but eventually we switch to track changes.
In the hard copy phase I try and focus on big things. Does the flow need to be changed? Are there major gaps? Do the figures make sense in relation to the text? Once we transition to track changes, the sleeves get rolled up. After a couple rounds of that, things should be in order. If I can, I like to circulate it through another member of the lab at a point when it is getting close to acceptable.
As a final check I like to send it out to someone outside the lab. If we have collaborators on the project then this is an obvious and critical step. If not, I may tap one of my senior colleagues to do a once over. We all have people around who delight in the opportunity to edit, use them. At each step of the way, the trainee makes the changes, not me.
There are many other ways to get people to write for practice, some of which I employ across the board and others for just certain people. It takes a lot of work on their part and a decent amount on mine. But when they get to the point where they can get something finished in just a few drafts back and forth (and act as editors on the writing of others), then it is worth the initial investment.