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Developers: here’s how to build your writing skills

Machine, Blade, Dagger

It’s a common trope that writing is an under-loved aspect of a developer’s role, but it doesn’t have to be this way! With a little skill building and some top resources at your fingertips, you’ll be penning prose like a pro in no time.

The topic of writing has come up frequently during one-to-ones within my team, so I thought it was about time we shared the resources and tips we use to overcome writing reticence at Human Made. Credit to Gergely Orosz’s fantastic post on writing well for some of these resources.

Posts on writing well

Sometimes, knowing why we’re doing something can be a motivator in itself. These posts are focused around looking at how we think and value our writing skills, and why exactly they’re so important.

Writing courses

You might be someone who learns best by ‘doing’, and if so, this category is for you. These courses allow you to work at your own pace in a way that’s comfortable for you.

Stack of books including Guardian Style by David Marsh and Amelia Hodson, Fowler's Modern English Usage,  On Writing Well by William Zinsser, Penguin's The Complete Plain Words, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal.
Mike Little’s got his reading stack nailed 👌

Books on writing

Our team had a lot of suggestions under the ‘books’ category, but we’ve managed to narrow it down to the very best, along with some shelf candy for the bookworms out there! 📚

And finally, no post on writing skills would be complete without mentioning George Orwell’s timeless list of the six rules of writing. Developers and documentation leads should pay particular attention to point number 5 – simple language is always preferable!

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
George Orwell’s six rules of writing

What resources have you found most helpful on your journey to becoming a better writer? Let us know on Twitter.