Learning how to write

In my world, I cannot avoid writing. Even if I could avoid blogging (hey, I'm becoming pretty good at it at least by view of the entry dates – not that I'd be particularly proud here) I'd still have to write a lot of stuff daily. Email, both in Finnish and in English. Code, of course – but that's not really writing. But then: documentation and meeting minutes, the bane of all IT workers!
Actually, I like writing them both, too. I don't expect anyone else to, but I have to wonder about the lax attitude towards them. Pretty often, I see professional developers, managers, consultants etc. produce really crappy documents. I mean people who I deeply respect because of their technical aptitude or attitude in general. But then, it isn't uncommon to be forced to spend two hours deciphering the vague scribblings from a one-hour meeting. Multiply by the amount of people who have to read the minutes… yes, that's really effective. Really.
Get to the point. Don't aim at excessive brevity; you're writing in a natural language, not C++. Use full sentences and flowing text (paragraphs) instead of bulleted lists with a few words on each line. Use proper headings to guide the reader about the structure of the discussion. Cover backgrounds if they're not obvious. Consider having all the information in an easy referable format (numbered lists or paragraph numbering do fine).
Why don't people spend time teaching themselves skills this basic? Why don't job interviewers ask about this? Why is it acceptable to have "Finnish: mother tongue" in your CV and get away with it, even if that mother tongue may actually mean really sloppy written command of the language? The point of this rant is not about people who can't write. It's about people who don't bother really trying. Documentation and meeting notes is not primarily a challenge for your writing ability, it's a challenge for your desire to your job well.

October 27, 2004 В· Jouni Heikniemi В· No Comments
Posted in: General

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