Monday, January 10, 2011

Writing tip: Avoid abstract words

We all know that influential developers need good communication skills. I love technology, but if you can't communicate your technical ideas to your coworkers, then they won't be adopted.

You need to be concise, else people will just tune you out. One way to do that is to choose a more descriptive work that packs more meaning.  Your word count remains about the same - it's absolutely not just rambling on - but the sentence caries more meaning.

Of course sometimes you deliberately want the more abstract word, but it's good to be aware of the more-descriptive alternatives so that you can make a conscious choice of what's best for the situation.

Weak wordCommentConsider InsteadExample
Do, DoesDoes what?create, build, make, install
Bob does builds
Bob installs builds
RunWhat does the "running" do?scrubs, cleans, updates, processes, installs, configures
The service runs on the directory
The service cleans the directory
ChangeHow does it change?insert, update, delete, improves
The tool changes the file
The tool updates the file
ProcessorWhat does the process do?copier, uploader
FileProcessor tool
FileUploader tool
It, Object, ThingWhat kind of thing?C# class, SQL script, COM+ object
It runs fast.
The C# class runs fast
TalkWhat kind of talking?discussed, reasoned, concluded, negotiated, argued, explained
Bob talked about structs
Bob explained structs
IssueWhat kind of issue?bug, feature request, task, problem
This is an issue
This is an error
OtherIn what way?previous, next, remaining, bigger, smaller
I need the other node
I need the previous node
GoodIn what sense?faster, more reliable, higher revenue 
This feature is good
This feature is faster
PeopleWhat kind of person?manager, employee, developer, analyst, users
People will like this feature
Managers will like this feature
SentHow?FTPd, emailed, faxed
I sent the files
I emailed the files


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