Mar 2016

“The acquisition of knowledge is always of use to the intellect, because it may thus drive out useless things and retain the good. For nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known.”

― Leonardo da Vinci

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

– Albert Einstein

You can tell a lot about a person by what they write about. The way they write and the content says a lot about them. It is an insight into a persons ideas and the composition of their thoughts. The same way you can tell a lot about a developer by the style of their code, this is the writing equivalent.

Bias, prejudice can’t be hidden in writing but can be when speaking to someone. Any kind of bigotry or hatred begins and ends with writing because it is usually the medium of how a thought spreads or an idea is fleshed out.

When speaking there is a lot of subtle social cues going on that don’t exist in writing. The way a person stands can influence a conversation by just as much as what they say. Or if they smiled or made eye contact while saying it.

But if you had to isolate what writing is, it is the process of structuring and conveying an idea. If I had an idea, how would I communicate it to you? Or to many people? The act of writing adds structure to an idea. It’s the medium by which ideas travel.

Often when trying to explain something I don’t know what exactly I’m talking about and don’t know how to explain properly. I start with an exploratory essay. I just start writing and try to refine the ideas until all of it is on the page. The page being the optimal path the idea flows out of my mind. Kind of like when you have a sponge full of water, after squeezing it the water usually finds the optimal path out of the sponge.

But if you had to ask someone what good writing looked like? I’d bet each person would have a different opinion. I suspect by extension, dumb people then gravitate to dumb writing. It engages them on their preconceptions. Like how angry internet comments will generate a lot of likes by other angry internet people, but will produce no tangible value.

In that sense, dumb writing is a lot easier to do. Smart writing is hard. It takes time to actually think about an idea and explore it to it’s greatest potential. Then the writing of it should make it as easy as possible for the reader to understand as quickly as possible.

What is smart writing? Crisp, clear, concise points that maximise the utility of the words used for the amount of meaning conveyed.