"You write like a programmer"

I was working for a startup about four years ago. By necessity and interest I got recruited into technical and product marketing.

I was working hard to distill complicated technical topics regarding our product to a non-technical audience.

I sent a "whitepaper" out to a technical reviewer. If you’re not familiar, a whitepaper is a form of technical writing only non-technical people read. Actual technical work gets called a “paper”. It may or may not be published in a technical journal (e.g. “The Raft paper”)

Anyway, I had hoped for a technical review. I had hoped that I didn't incorrectly represent any of the aspects of our product.

Instead I got the best writing advice I ever received:

"You write like a programmer."

This was not a compliment about my writing.

This was a principal engineer at a startup I was working for. I respect their technical chops tremendously. We had worked together on hard problems, and they had explained some difficult concepts to me.

Look at this. You're using this sentence like it's a program and you've got
eight branches. Count them. There are eight. If you got this program from a
junior could you review it?

I've since come to understand it was also not a compliment about my programs.

From some of my first writing in junior high teachers and editors told me "This is a run-on sentence".
They may have even told me "You write run-on sentences". Nobody but this principal engineer had identified why.

If you're a programmer, you will write prose. If you are struggling with getting your ideas across try this: when you write prose, write one idea per sentence. This shift alone will make your prose better. If your prose gets better, your programs will get better.

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Issac Kelly