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Writing Better

21 April, 2023

Over the past decade or so in my career, I have come to recognize the importance of writing well. This includes writing better emails, instant messages on IRC/Slack/Teams, documentation, and any other type of writing.

I believe that the key to writing effectively is to be able to communicate an idea in a straightforward and precise way. This is something I have noticed in my work as a programmer, but I believe it can be applied to any field. The point is not necessarily just for the benefit of others who are on the receiving end, but also for my own sake in actually saying what I intend to say and get others to understand it. I have seen many colleagues and friends communicate in a less-than-ideal way and I have felt both sympathetic and at-times vexed for their confused and hazy way of putting forward an idea. It's mostly sad when they actually have a good idea but they just can't bother (or just don't have the ability) to think about it and write it clearly. I often find myself replying "Do you mean ...?" when someone asks me a question.

Using uncommon slang, lacking capitalization or punctuation can also affect the intelligibility of a request, this is especially the case for people whose first language is not English. I'm not a grammar pedant and English is not my first language. I'm not arguing that people should never miss a comma or a full stop, I certainly do that all the time, but there's something to say for sure about how some of these rules at least can help in structuring ideas and thoughts.

I suppose what I'm arguing for here is not that we should all practice writing and respect grammar rules, but more that we should understand the value of clearly conveying thoughts in writing, especially in non-formal contexts in a work environment (like during chats or quick-meetings). It's very easy to lose on potentially useful discussions that get missed (or dismissed) because they are slurred or down right incomprehensible.