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I'm personally not a fan of the author's writing style. You can fetishize minimalism and clarity to the point that it undermines your goal. But the content here is good. In TODO list form, I suggest anyone writing something think through:

1. Who are you writing to?

2. Why are you writing to them?

3. What do you want them to know?

4. What do they already know?

5. What style of writing is most effective for this audience and intention?

What remains is to use 5 to describe the difference between 4 and 3 in order to accomplish 2. The primary challenge is that 1 is often not a single person and the wider the audience you choose, the fuzzier all of the subsequent answers become. The single best thing you can do to become a stronger writer is to be courageous about selecting a narrow audience.




> 4. What do they already know?

Yeah, I've found that this is what's most commonly overlooked when communicated with people at work. They either spend too much time explaining things you already know, or assume context you don't have.


It’s not always easy though to get a good idea of where people currently are on a potentially decades-long multidimensional learning curve. You need a back-and-forth dialog to home in on the right level.


It may not be easy, but I think it's the area that needs the most focus, at least at my company.


I very much prefer when they explain too much than too little. Yeah, it might be boring to listen to or you might have to skim a big part of the text, but that is much better than being lost.


In text I don't mind so much, but in meetings it can waste a lot of time.


I can’t agree enough on this point. It wastes so much time to overexplain things every time they come up. It doesn’t matter as much until it’s senior people communicating with one other, at which point you can save countless minutes/hours by just trusting each other to be competent on the subject. This is why you should just ask questions when you don’t understand what someone is talking about— let them give you the quick version assuming equal competence, but ask when you DO need clarification. It not only saves time, but builds trust.

Sorry this turned out being less about writing and more about communication in the workplace.


> I'm personally not a fan of the author's writing style.

Agreed. The paragraphs are too short and are not as freestanding as they should be. For instance the following should have been folded into the preceding paragraph, which provided the vital context:

> But that’s often the cause of the failure.

I also find it jarring to read a sentence beginning with and or but, although not everyone agrees with me that it's poor style.


There is a specific case where you start a sentence with 'but': when you want to give someone time to accept the previous statement before demolishing it. This is what we all know, and we all agree that we see it. But what we know is not right, and here's why.

If a person is using And and But equally, they just like the mental pause between their statements. The period is more of an ellipsis. If your reader needs a mental pause before an And, before a second piece of information, maybe your information is too dense and you should free the new information to stand alone. Possibly in a new paragraph.

As in, "The other thing that's cool about this process is that it also does blah. Which is useful for these reasons..."

I don't know how other people develop a theory of a system, but if you want to change mine, if I want to change mine, I have to 'walk into it' see what's wrong with it, deconstruct it and put it back together the new way. If you don't bring me through this, I'm going to make you stop talking, back up, and walk me through it anyway. Otherwise your next best outcome is that later than night when I'm brushing my teeth I realize you're right and we pick it back up tomorrow. If it's in writing, I can only make you back up by skipping back a few paragraphs, or writing a response that you may or may see. If your proposal is too woo, I'll just be writing you off entirely.


I find myself beginning sentences with conjunctions. I try to edit it out most of the time, but I'm not fanatical about it. I think it reads more clearly to the original writer than it does to a reader.

You're absolutely correct about the paragraphs. A paragraph is a tool for organizing your document. If you have only one sentence per paragraph, you're sacrificing that tool. You already have the period to separate sentences, so you should use paragraph separators to group sentences into a coherent thought.

The rule of thumb is 3-5 sentences per paragraph. It's not ironclad, but if you find yourself breaking it often, you're probably doing something wrong.


Your list is a much easier read, and consequently a far more effective communication than the article.

The last two sentences are not required and could be omitted for clarity, or at least truncated beyond the conjunction "and" in sentence two of your last paragraph.




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