If you’re a techie, you may have groaned when reading the title. Or maybe you skipped right over this article completely. There’s a certain amount of pride when a techie says, "I don’t write." If that sounds like you, you’re discrediting an important and easy-to-learn skill that can make a difference in your career.
Express yourself concisely so others understand you
Let’s start with the very basics. Here are three reasons you need to write often and well:
Keep your resume updated. If your resume isn’t current or, worse, reads like someone from a nebula well beyond the Milky Way wrote it, it won’t help you get the job you want. When you clearly and simply explain everything you’ve accomplished, you’re more likely to get an interview.
Let management know your accomplishments. If you don’t write about what you’re doing in a way that others can understand, how will management know the impact you’ve had on your current project? You may have savagely denounced other techies who "toot their own horn," but they get noticed. If you don’t promote yourself, who will do it for you?
Network with people outside your clan. Let’s face it: Many techies are introverts who usually hang out with those few people with whom they’re comfortable. When you write and share that writing with others online, you invite people to interact and engage with you. What do you think would happen if you wrote a guest blog post for TechCrunch and inserted a piece of code you were having problems with? Most likely, you would get inundated with comments from people with ideas on how to improve the code, what you’re doing wrong, what you should do, and much more. It won’t all be pretty, but you will still learn something from others. And you’ve just expanded your network.
What you don’t realize is when you share your writing and thoughts with others, they can learn from you. It’s a two-way street: You share what you know and people will comment back with what they know. It’s called collaboration.
You may find you like interacting with people online. You may find like-minded people who become your new best friends. Who knows, you may find a new job opportunity you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
Regardless of the many benefits to becoming a writer (about which others have written blogs ad nauseam), it’s a skill you need to practice. If you’re avoiding writing because you’re a horrible writer with atrocious grammar and spelling, here are a few best-practice suggestions:
Invest in Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style
If you don’t want or need to buy your own copy, borrow one from someone in your marketing or communications department. This is the definitive book on punctuation and grammar, sentence structure, and much more. If you don’t want to lug around a print copy, you can buy the Kindle version on Amazon and read it on your smartphone.
Take a Coursera class or another MOOC
You can find plenty of online courses that offer the basics of writing. A few hours of your time after work or on a weekend learning about writing concisely and coherently is well worth such a small investment.
Remember, you’re not looking to become a professional writer. You’re looking for the basics of putting great sentences together in meaningful, understandable ways. Don’t join a writing workshop. Seriously, you’ll hate it.
Make friends with writers
Maybe that friend in marketing who lent you her copy of The Elements of Style would look over your writing and offer some constructive feedback. Or maybe there’s another programmer in your company who writes. Making friends with the right people can result in finding a mentor willing to help you learn and grow.
Find an online editing tool you can learn from
You can find many different online editing tools. The key is to find one that teaches you how to write better instead of changing your writing without explaining why it needs changing.
So test drive a few editing tools. Or go on social media and ask a writers group which editing tool they prefer. They’re happy to share their experiences with others.
You probably still have some doubts. Are you worried you’re not expert enough to write on a topic? You need not be. You can always research what you need to know before writing.
Maybe you’re worried about saying something incorrect. Every writer makes mistakes, and readers love to call you out on it. You learn to correct your errors and repost or resubmit your writing. Or sometimes, you need to educate a reader on why what you wrote wasn’t a mistake after all.
Don’t worry about writing too simply, or looking like a newb, or being so complex it goes over everyone’s heads. You’ll find your niche and your audience. The key is to tackle the writing skill, master it, and wield it like you would a portal gun in Portal 2. Happy writing!