Why a programmer should be able to write well

Original author: Derek Mei
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Hello everyone.

Recently, we have been able to publish mostly highly specialized materials in a blog, strongly associated with market research and the formation of publishing policies. We believe that in the foreseeable future, Friday's publications will remain as such - we are very interested in your comments, voting and comments on the books and authors we are considering. But now there will also be Monday publications that are much more indirectly related to our strategic searches, and (at the first stage) will be presented by our “editor's pick” from the Medium website.

The first such article is written by Derek Mey and translated today.

I recently came across an article by John Maeda about what exactly the ability to write - and not to code - is the designer’s most important secret weapon. Therefore, I began to think, and what role the writing talent plays in the life of the developer.

In today's data-oriented world, overloaded with information, such a mass of content that has to be digested. We are constantly showered with videos, pictures, ads, podcasts and articles. All these types of information are attractive in their own way, and all the time it seems that they all compete fiercely to attract and keep our attention.

A selection of various types of media channels that exist today (image from Change Conversations) .

In the conditions of proliferation of various media channels that has unfolded in the last few decades, we began to deprive the attention of written content, preferring the visual - namely, video and pictures. According to this 1997 source , a person is able to comprehend visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

However, the ability to write is still a very important skill. Perhaps the words - one of the purest forms of expression of human thoughts. Words are both sequences of letters, and texts, and short messages. The writer spreads his thoughts, shares them both in the form of ink on paper, and in the form of digitized pixels on the screen.

I learned that writing well can catalyze success, whether in personal growth, professional development, or social well-being. The various skills that I managed to develop by writing dozens of articles over the past few years have allowed me to get the current job of a programmer at Putnam Investments, which I do in fulltime mode.

Aaron Burden image from Unsplash.

As a developer, I can name five important skills that I developed by learning the writing industry.

1. Writing helps you communicate better.

The most obvious achievement to which I am obliged to regular writing work is pumping communication skills. A person formulates thoughts and expresses feelings first of all in words. As I often write, it is easier for me to express my thoughts without worrying about whether I select the right words, write too much or too little, express myself too vague or difficult.

Image from zalarieunique.ru .

At work, I easily write drafts of concise letters or send instant messages without using either the spelling dictionary (to check the spelling) or the intelligent one (to pick up some clever word). When a thought falls freely on paper, you write easily and quickly, you do not have to manipulate it to achieve a specific goal.

It takes years to hone literary skills, like many other skills. The most pleasant thing about writing is that your development can be easily traced. You can see your earlier work and see how much progress has been made over time.

2. When you write to the public, you learn to prepare better documentation.

An important criterion by which a good developer is recognized is the ability to state technical requirements and specifications to other interested parties. When writing, it is important to know your target audience; the same applies to communication with customers and writing any kind of technical documentation.

Snapshot of John-Mark Smith with Unsplash.

When working with colleagues who are inferior to you in technical training, you have to explain technical concepts and concepts in an accessible way, so as to receive feedback from colleagues. For example, when dealing with product owners and designers, I usually try to outline in general terms what I'm working on, without going into details. Communicating with the designer, I try to convey how this opportunity should be implemented in terms of usability or embodied in the user interface. Communicating with the owners, I try to conceptualize my work in terms of business.

In addition, developers have to talk about their projects to other developers. Whether it is a matter of naming variables or functions, writing comments, or documenting the functionality of the system in general, the developer should be able to write high-quality documentation so that its code is understandable and easy to use with support. In preparing the documentation, I try to achieve this goal to the maximum. Any programmer who happens to work with my code base will be able to understand its general structure, and will also be able to complement it without training - without any deconstruction and reverse engineering of the code.

3. Writing helps you evaluate the quirks of programming.

Back in 2011, a sub-topic appeared in Reddit in the / r / programming section, which discussed the differences and similarities between writing and programming. Some people think that programming is like writing texts, not because of their conceptual complexity, but because both skills are gradually honed. Others believe that the writing of texts and programming is fundamentally different, because the first is a creative skill, and the second is more of a natural science, requiring a deep understanding of fundamental concepts.

However, everyone agrees (there is a slight disagreement about the nuances) that, both for writing and programming, a basic understanding of such fundamental phenomena as syntax, structure and semantics is required. However, the difference between an amateur and a leading figure in both disciplines is the ability to create or cope with the complexity of the system or topic with which you are currently working.

Many of these ideas concern linguistics and language.

A text writer learns to think in new ways. When writing code, a programmer may feel constrained - because he has a limited number of keywords, functions, and libraries at his disposal. However, the written text gives complete freedom of expression, which the programming language usually does not allow.

Ted Kaminsky emphasizes another important point related to the assignment of words used in the program code and other systems.
First, the writing is intended to be read. The code is intended to be read and modified. - Ted Kaminsky
From the point of view of the writers, it seems that with time a clear dichotomy has arisen, delimiting the writer's considerations and reading experience. Literature seems to be cut out forever, whereas programming is a dynamic process, in which the existing code is constantly striving to refine.

There are quite a few similarities between “creative” writing texts and writing code, but it is the understanding of the differences between these skills that helps me to understand both of them much better.

4. When you write, you get a chance to apply the learned

When I write, I constantly like to talk with myself. After reading a book or finding something important, I try to digest my own thoughts by writing an article on the same topic I read about. It is easiest for me to enrich my knowledge in a certain area by writing on the same topic.
On the site freeCodeCamp and many others, where basic programming guidelines are published, the authors write on a variety of topics, touching on all sorts of concepts. Many are willing to devote personal time to writing articles, not only because they can share their own experiences and help others, but also because they can consolidate their knowledge of the very topic on which they write the article.

When I write on those topics that I study, I usually do additional research and at the same time stumble upon bits of information that I would not otherwise have found. When I write, it is easier for me to memorize what I have learned, and for a long time. In addition, sometimes I can get acquainted with other points of view and see the problem from a different angle, thereby checking my original position for strength. The entire writing process is a dynamic, incessant conversation that helps me digest the information I find and judge it myself.

Writing is a great way to collect your thoughts and put them in order (Radu Florin photo from Unsplash).

Writing is a great way to digest and process incoming information; because erudition and intellect do not develop from the amount of information consumed, but from our ability to assimilate it and draw sensible conclusions from it.

5. Writing texts as a form of catharsis

The last reason why writing seems important to me is not so directly related to the profession of a developer as the four previous ones. But, I believe that it is no less, if not more significant. The most important reason I write is that creating texts helps me to pour out emotions and feelings. I do not like to keep them to myself, so writing for me is a kind of catharsis.

Photo of Alvaro Serrano from Unsplash

When I was younger, I kept a diary, I wrote notes in it, like journal ones. Now I write on a variety of topics, publish texts, and they are read all over the world. But sometimes I take the pen and paper again and write down my personal thoughts. Yes, I keep a personal diary, I write there from time to time, especially when I have doubts about professional goals, personal life, social interactions and everything that goes along with it.

Writing is quite simple. Sit at the keyboard and bleed.

When I describe my feelings, the feeling is as if I am talking to a friend who really knows how to listen. So I throw out negative emotions and turn to a clean slate, without fear that he will judge me.

Writing is very useful and, although this way of expressing thoughts may not be close to you, writing is a necessary and important skill even in the present cacophonic and chaotic world. Even if you are just starting to write, I recommend that you sometimes sit alone with your own thoughts until the flow of consciousness begins. It's amazing how much you can achieve this.

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