Saturday, September 11, 2010

Steve Fritzinger and Writing Tips

Long time friend Steve Fritzinger is one of those rare individuals who discuss any topic from extremely complicated design use cases in Java to Keynesian economics.   Just to back up that particular claim, Steve is a Java author - Advanced Techniques for Java Developers, as well as works for the BBC discussing economics.  That is in addition to his day job.  These are just two examples of his countless skills.

When Steve sends me something, I read it.  Steve sent me this short article titled, "How To Write Less Badly", by Michael C. Munger, that is definitely worth reading.  As Mr. Munger starts out:

"In my nearly 30 years at universities, I have seen a lot of very talented people fail because they couldn't, or didn't, write. And some much less talented people (I see one in the mirror every morning) have done OK because they learned how to write."

I would add public speaking to that list as well, but that is for a different day and different blog post :-)

Below is an example from the article as a thought provoking way to "Write Less Badly":

6. Pick a puzzle. Portray, or even conceive, of your work as an answer to a puzzle. There are many interesting types of puzzles:
  • "X and Y start with same assumptions but reach opposing conclusions. How?"
  • "Here are three problems that all seem different. Surprisingly, all are the same problem, in disguise. I'll tell you why."
  • "Theory predicts [something]. But we observe [something else]. Is the theory wrong, or is there some other factor we have left out?"
Don't stick too closely to those formulas, but they are helpful in presenting your work to an audience, whether that audience is composed of listeners at a lecture or readers of an article.
My favorite writing advice is from the famous  Louis D. Brandeis (who graduated from Harvard at age 20 with the highest grade point average ever in the school's history):

“There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.”

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