Sunday, September 17, 2006


The Art of Writing Clearly

If you can’t express yourself well in words, how can you expect to write clear, concise code? Joel Spolsky makes this point many times over. In fact, he goes as far as saying: hire programmers that can write well. And I agree. Given the choice between two programmers of similar skills and experience, I would pick the one with the best writing skills. Joel makes some excellent points here Painless Functional Specifications - Part 4: Tips. Paul Graham makes excellent sense in Writing Briefly; I’ve been trying to follow a similar methodology for some time.

If you want to improve your ability to write clear code you need to improve your English writing skills. If you want to improve your writing skills (apologies in advance, to everyone for who English is not their first language), a good starting point is buying and reading the book “Elements of Style” 4th Edition by William Strunk and E.B. White. Incidentally, this was the book that provided the title inspiration for Brian W. Kernighan and PJ Plauger’s “The Elements of Programming Style”.

The “Elements of Style” is a tiny book; you could add it to your rucksack or briefcase without extending your arms that bit more! In fact, it’s small enough to carry in your pocket. The fourth edition is a little gem. I highly recommended you buy and read it, and then keep it close, so you can flick through it from time to time.


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