A few weeks ago, a link was posted on Signal vs. Noise to the following article - "10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy". As expected, the "original Mad Man" had some really good tips on writing. What I wasn't expecting was how applicable his advice was to writing good code.
I propose my interpretation (in red) of what the memo might have looked like if he was running a software company today:
People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly
memosfunctions, woolly lettersclasses and woolly speechesapplications. Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
the Roman-Raphaelson book on writingCode Complete. Read it three times.
- Write code the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short
wordsvariables, short sentencesfunctions and short paragraphsclasses.
- Never use jargon words
like "reconceptualize", "demassification", "attitudinally", "judgmentally"in output to clients. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- Never write more than two pages on any
- Check your
quotationsreferences and open source credits.
- Never deploy a change
send a letter or a memoon the day you write it. Read it aloudthe next morning — and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you
send your letter or your memocheck in your code, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipientnext developer to dounderstand.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write standards or documentation. Go and tell the
guyperson what you want.
Pretty interesting how close it is to the original, but maybe not all that surprising. After all, writing code is the act of explaining to another human, in the simplest way possible, what you are expecting a computer to do. It is the story of your application (for the human), as well as the instructions (for the computer).
Maybe the next time you sit down in front of your favorite editor with a caffeinated drink, you should start by asking yourself: HWDDH (How Would Don Draper Hack)?