Improve Your Developer Career: Learn to Write

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What’s a surefire way to become a better developer?

According to Mike Borozdin, an engineer who’s worked at Microsoft and DocuSign, it’s all about learning to express your thoughts in a clear, articulate way. “I would advise folks in software to do one thing, and that’s write,” he recently told Business Insider. “Learn how to write… it’s actually useful.”

Without solid writing abilities, developers can have a hard time articulating the value of their work in front of managers, stakeholders and clients. If they can’t effectively convey ideas, they may find it more difficult to secure the resources, time, and people they need to complete projects or start new ones.

Developers also need effective writing skills in order to create the documentation supporting a new piece of software. Without clear documentation, users can quickly become frustrated with a platform’s more idiosyncratic aspects, and abandon it.

If you’re interested in writing well, consult the following resources:

  • On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
    Many writers consider this book the gold standard for clean writing. The approach is very generalist—there are no deep dives into any particular aspect of writing or editing—but it works very well as a survey of what it takes to become a good writer.
  • On Writing, by Stephen King
    If you’re pressed for time, skip the memoir part, and focus instead on the chapters where Stephen King talks about how to create effective prose. While some people dislike King’s prose style, even some of his harshest critics have grudgingly admitted over the years that he’s capable of dispensing good advice about the art of writing.
  • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
    A very formal book about very formal writing, but worth reading if you’re a developer who ends up writing a lot of formal papers and reports. Plus you can’t go wrong with advice such as “Don’t over-explain.”

Communicating effectively is a vital aspect of so-called “soft skills,” which can help tech pros not only get hired, but also remain employed. Don’t neglect them.

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