Work on your writing

Sep 20, 2022

Even the best software developers ignore writing skills. Improving how to communicate what is in their heads with others through the written word.

Writing is one of the best ways to help you move into or farther up management. Yes, perfecting your craft of writing code is important, but not in a way that gets you promoted into management.

I find that good developers have a knack for good writing. If you find yourself cleaning up your code, optimizing it, not repeating yourself… writing is going to be easy for you. I have four main reasons to do so:

Writing well will differentiate you from the rest. There are many great programmers out there. But not many can articulate themselves well in writing. If you must choose between spending four hours trying to push your coding skills the tiniest bit farther, or getting big gains with writing… do the writing. The return on investment here can be enormous.

Writing is excellent for clarifying your thoughts. Your mind is a mess and gives a false sense of “I got this.” When you take a concept and put it down on paper you notice things. It becomes apparent where topics should be grouped, what parts require more explanation, and where you missed some consideration. How many times have you solved a sticky problem while actually writing to someone for help? This was your thinking getting organized.

Writing-well will reduce your total amount of work. After the initial investment of developing good writing habits, you will find it:

  • Takes less time to get your point across

  • Helps people understand exactly what you want

  • Gets people to take actions you want

  • Streamlines communications because people will read your writing.

The most significant payback will be not having lengthy exchanges clarifying your message.

The written word has the most throughput of any communication medium. The reader can speed up or slow down as needed. It is much easier to pause, re-read, or refer to earlier sections that with audio or video. Well written content is the king of information conveyance.

This topic is near to my heart and there will be future posts on it. For now, dear developer, here is a quick exercise.

Find a communication that has at least a paragraph or two. Put on your refactoring hat and optimize it. Look at each sentence like it was a line of code… is it elegant?

  • Pull out the words that do not contribute to the subject. “I would like to tell you…”

  • Pull out most of adverbs “We will quickly eat the pizza” unless they are needed.

  • Refactor each sentence to complete clarity.

  • Don’t say “it” when using that word could be confusing.

When you are happy with it, paste it into The Hemingway writing app and see if it makes some more suggestions.

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