Always Get Better

Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Re-Learning How to Write

Monday, April 30th, 2012

In just two weeks, Node: Up and Running will be released by O’Reilly Media. Writing a book has been a lot of hard work but also a terrific learning experience that I would love to repeat.

The biggest takeaway for me was how often I make stupid mistakes in my writing. As a developer and manager, I rely on my speaking and writing abilities every day – so I take my ability to express myself for granted because I have to do it every day.

When a professional editor takes a piece of writing, they aren’t looking at it in the same way a co-worker would. A co-worker knows me, understands some of the subtleties of the context I’m writing about, and can subconsciously apply meaning to ambiguities in the text or conversation. A casual reader doesn’t have the same context, and the copy editor is able to filter that out and make adjustments to the text that leave my meaning intact but change the delivery.

In other words, the text that came out of the editing process makes me look really smart (I wish!). I’ve learned the secret to clear communication is in keeping the message brief. Especially in a technical book, the audience can’t be expected to deconstruct prose – it’s up to the writer to make their point and get out of the way.

I’ve also learned that I use the same turns of phrases over and over again. Reading 50 pages of my own writing in a row with the same sentence transitions is boring as heck, and I’m able to see this strikingly clear when it’s annotated by a totally impartial writer.

Post-Dating Blog Entries in WordPress (or, the Absent-Minded Blogger)

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

WordPress is a great tool; I am looking forward to version 2.7 although I find myself hard-pressed to try to imagine how the WP team is going to improve upon the existing platform. One of my favourite functions of the WordPress software is the ability to post-date entries. Often I will get a burst of inspiration and write four or five articles.  Rather than releasing them all at once I will set them to automatically publish into the future so there is a steady stream of content always appearing on my home page.

Most cream-of-the-crop blogs add 2-3 new entries daily. Always Get Better is certainly not in that category, however I try to post at least once per day. As I am busy with other work and blogs, I don’t necessarily have the time to write a decent article every day (although I do often make the time). Since the content here is not particularly topical, it doesn’t matter too much if it doesn’t go up hot off the press. In fact, by pre-publishing my articles I have a decent opportunity to go back and review what I’ve written which improves the overal quality of my writing.

Some blogs exclusively post content written long ago. I certainly don’t advocate going to that extreme though since a blog that is totally on autopilot risks losing some human connection. As long as the authors review, post and respond to comments in real time I suppose it wouldn’t matter in the long run.