Who cares about writing?
Improving your writing is easy enough if you care about it
|Oct 21, 2019||1|
After a year-long hiatus, I will be revisiting some themes from the first season of this newsletter. I'll start with the one simple idea that, I believe, inevitably leads to better writing: you should care enough to pay attention.
When you send an email without reviewing it, you are showing that you don't care. An email sent is like pushing your untested code to production. Don’t do it without code review at least. It is easy enough to send a message full of bugs, performance problems, and low readability.
Caring about your writing is making a conscious effort to improve it. Use words as tools that help you instead of accepting them as dead weight that hinders your progress. It might be hard to write consistently well, but it is easy enough not to write consistently poorly.
The explicit and implicit reasons for a professional not to care about their writing is, at the same time, cause and justification for their communication problems. "Not caring" comes in two flavors: conscious negligence and unconscious negligence.
Conscious negligence is usually preceded by arrogance. As if taking the time to try to choose better words is beneath them. As their code alone should speak for itself and nothing that they write outside of their IDE should matter. It is safe to assume that people treating their writing with conscious negligence are not reading this, so let's move on.
Unconscious negligence is the most common way to do it. You have an idea in your mind and write it down in autopilot mode, as fast as you can, barely processing what is coming from your brain. At the moment you finish typing, you already consider the job done and move on to the next task. You assume that your idea is correctly translated into the words of that first draft. You never assume the first code you write is the best code you could write, so why do that with words?
Caring is taking the time
With our most scarce resource being time, time allocation is the way we demonstrate caring about something.
Before you start writing, take the time to think about the message you want to transmit. What's the information you need to deliver, and what is its core?
While you are writing, take the time to think about the person who is reading it. Do they need more context to understand the information? What will make it easier for them to understand it? What is distracting for them so you can avoid it?
Then, after you wrote the first version, take the time to rewrite it. Remember your goals about the message and the reader and try to make your words better achieve them.
I’ll explore those three moments, with practical tips, in the next weeks.