Programmers: Learn how to Write

Yes – this x 1000: An Ex-Microsoft Engineer's Advice to Programmers: Learn How to Write.

It’s a constant surprise to me how many smart programmers can’t write an email, blog post, or document to save their lives.  What’s even more surprising is how many of those people brush it off as a skill that they don’t and/or won’t ever need in their lives.

I would advise folks in software to do one thing, and that’s write. Learn how to write ... It’s actually useful. You need to know how to express yourself. And it’s really tough for a lot of engineers to step up and do public speaking... Once you create a successful piece of software, you’re probably going to be writing English as much as you’re going to be writing Java or Objective C. I’ve created multiple pieces of software at DocuSign that went viral, and people liked them and wanted to use more of them. And I probably wrote 10 times the documentation and explanation, and answered questions in paragraph form.

The excuse of “I don’t need it for my job” is rather short sighted. You may not need it now, but if your career path changes trajectory (or stays on an upward trajectory), then chances are you’re going to need it at some point, so why not be prepared and ready?

If you’re a tech blogger, then take some time out to improve on the fundamentals of writing. Learn about apostrophes. Learn when to use “its” versus “it’s” and genuinely understand the difference (while you’re there, brush up on “your” versus “you’re” too). Improving those few things alone will make your writing sound 100 times more intelligent, even if there’s only a small percentage of your readers who will ever notice the difference.

Posted on Friday, October 16, 2015 8:40 AM |

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