January 6, 2022
4 Minutes

Coding Will Improve Your Writing (Vice-Versa)

In a period where we're required to wear more hats, combining two skills of a complementary nature (coding and writing) could be your growth path.

For several years, I'd been writing technical articles, mainly covering the areas of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. During that time, I was never motivated by the idea of learning how to code. I assumed that only those with a particular disposition could do such a thing as coding.

As a challenge, I committed to learning coding. As I was learning, I noticed that many of the lessons one learns when writing can apply to coding.

Pre-Coding Assumptions

Before challenging myself to learn how to code, I assumed that there were few similarities other than clattering away at a keyboard. How wrong I was.

Coding and writing involve manipulating words. To do successfully, one must understand syntax, structure and semantics.

Previously, I assumed writing an art, coding not. That assumption got shattered once I understood that both writing and coding unravel stories.

What's more, I assumed that code is to be read by computers. But, in coding and writing, you're creating work for human readability. The only difference is, coding is crafted for interpretation by computers, writing by humans.

Thinking Logically

Coding or writing, it's helpful to think logically about the message.

Coding and writing get interpreted from left to right, top to bottom (at least in the English language). Hence, your work's logic is as important as the flow.

Let's take the example of J.K. Rowling. She is known to have created a spreadsheet to map out the plot of Harry Potter logically.

Image by Paper Blanks

Coders and writers should view their work as a map. Ensure there is a logic behind it, precisely guiding the interpreter.

Writing Clearly

Coding or writing, I've found it's essential to write with precision.

Computers need precise instructions to execute a program. And, readers of non-fiction books need specific instructions to implement the advice shared.

Clear writing comes in many forms. In coding, precision can come in the form of comments. In writing, precision can come in the form of topic sentences.

Whilst adopting a style of precision, brevity should get embraced, too (as long as it doesn't impair the work's readability).

Brevity eliminates points of failure. Though it can be challenging to write with brevity, it renders more rewarding for both the creator and the consumer.

The DRY principle (do not repeat yourself) in programming can apply to writing. Similarly, George Orwell's writing rules can apply to coding.

Image by Robert McEvily

So much is the case that coding and writing are alike, Donald Knuth, the creator of the literate programming methodology, describes a practitioner of literate programming as an essayist.

The Editing Process

Any notable work that I feel I've created has seldom got achieved in the initial drafts. It's in the editing process where the work has come to life.

Every writer, be it a coder or a novelist, will agree to some extent, the editing process is one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of their work.

Peer reviews should get welcomed in the editing process. Personal attachment can render the creator blind to their faults.

In the editing process, creators can ensure their work tight. There should be no unnecessary fat. That doesn't mean that each code block or paragraph should lack imagery. It means that each word should serve a purpose.

Remember, editing comes after your drafts to combat writers' block. Oh, and it has got said many times to never edit in your head as you're creating.

Ideas In Related Fields

It has got said many times that you should go looking for ideas in related fields. That's what I did with coding.

Like other crafts, coding and writing take practice to master. The great thing about both of those disciplines is that you can shorten the feedback loop. Shorter feedback loops allow you to take giant strides in your ability.

Do as the great artists of bygone eras have done - learn by iterating. Start by imitating the work of those you admire. Benjamin Franklin is known to have honed his essay writing skills by imitating the work of those he admired.

From personal experience, I can conclude that coding and writing are more alike in my mind than they've ever been. And, the skills learned in one can be applied to the other. Yet, both remain challenging, as with all creative skills.

In a period where we're required to wear more hats, combining two skills of a complementary nature (coding and writing) could be your growth path.

Just as the act of coding makes you a coder, writing makes you a writer. The best in both of these disciplines know never to stop learning. And, they understand that there is no substitute for beating on your craft.

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