March 21, 2005


I was inspired to start this blog by a few hackers who pointed out that knowing how to write well is valuable, even (or perhaps especially) for the traditionally uncommunicative programmer.

Paul Graham just published a short essay on writing, expressing the same sentiment but mostly giving his advice for actually writing better. His advice to cut everything unnecessary is spot on. I spend a lot of time removing extra adjectives and clauses from my sentences, particularly the word "probably", which I probably overuse. Brevity isn't just important in programming and writing, but in speech, and probably in all communication. It's a matter of efficiency.
I made this letter so long because I didn't
have the time to make it shorter.
- Blaise Pascal

Graham prefers to work in larger blocks of time and words than blogs allow, and he may have a point. Unless you're dealing with trivia, most subjects are too complicated to boil down to a paragraph. On the other hand, making the attempt is a good way to learn brevity.

My advice: if you want to learn to write, first read a lot. If you haven't done that, you won't have enough reference points to figure out which bits of your writing are good enough to keep.


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