Engineers need to write well
In a remote-first company like Acast, written communication is an essential skill to master at any level—from IC1 to CEO. We write Shortcut tickets, Slack messages, commit messages, PR reviews, or feedback throughout the day. Our work won’t be leveraged or impactful if we can’t share ideas, arguments, or information. When we can’t communicate clearly, our value in a team is drastically diminished. As we move to senior roles, it becomes critical.
Taking the time to write
There is no rush. No one is expected to respond within a minute. In the same way, when we refactor while coding, we can take the time to review what we are writing. Remember that while we write something once, a variety of people will see it many times. Making sure that the context is understood and that the message is focused on the subject is vital. Like code, we want to share our box model with the next person reading it. Readers must switch contexts from what they were doing to read a message, which requires a lot of energy. Our goal is to reduce that effort. Although it’s more work, it’ll be easier for people to provide feedback and build ideas on top.
Writing for thinking
Connecting ideas or developing arguments can be tricky on the first try. We may even have more questions than we did when we started. However, writing clarifies our thoughts, helping us explain them more easily. An excellent quote from Leslie Lamport challenged my view in the past.
If you think without writing, you only think you’re thinking.
It’s a long journey. It will take an active effort to think about what we write, but we need to practice every day to improve. The goal is not to be a novelist. However, we can still use relevant tips to improve our communication at work every day.
The following resources help me improve my writing:
- On writing well by William Zinsser.
- If you prefer a shorter version, Julian Shapiro condensed a lot of information in the writing well handbook.
- He is also active on Twitter and often shares threads that extract notes from his handbook. For instance, “How to rewrite bad writing”
- Finally, I heavily use Grammarly. They have helpful suggestions and correction algorithms.