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Simplicity in Writing

remotejavadev profile image Remote Java Dev Originally published at remotejavadev.com ・3 min read

The value of simplicity when writing business emails is of great importance.  In addition, our effectiveness depends on making our writings easy to digest.  A remote Java dev can exponentially increase his or her value to clients and employers by writing well.

“Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.” Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert

The Day You Became a Better Writer (2nd Look)

Common Scenario

It’s helpful to think of every email we send in terms of cost. For instance, a poorly written email can set off a chain reaction of delays and loss of productive time.

Imagine the common scenario where you’ve been tasked with a new feature request. Initially you have only the most basic requirements and need more information from the Product Owner. It’s then up to you to analyze the request and its implementation details. What you do next is the difference between a high-value developer and an average one.

An average developer will wait for a meeting with the Product Owner to talk about the requirements with no pre-meeting email sent. After that, something like this usually occurs:

The meeting time comes and Average Dev becomes frustrated as the conversation devolves into ancillary minutiae.  This is only broken up by a talkative non-critical participant’s habit of launching into unrelated stream-of-consciousness babbling.  This eats up most of the meeting and finally the Project Manager announces you’ll all need to meet again next week to continue hashing out the requirements. (Average Dev's brain explodes)

High-Value Dev

In contrast, a high-value dev will analyze the feature request and write an email with the likely use cases and implications.  This gives the Product Owner and the developer a common context. They can subsequently iterate over any disparities much more directly, clearly, and quickly.  

A huge part of our value as developers is translating nebulous business requests into formal constructs. Often we’ll discover edge cases that the Product Owner hadn’t initially considered or vice versa. Identifying edge cases up front saves time by allowing us to account for them in the design. As a result this leads to more robust software and reduces maintenance costs.  Both of which are hurt by the inevitable bolted on code handling edge cases that were not identified in a timely manner.

In short, a High-Value Dev

  • Takes the initiative of fleshing out requirements
  • Gets everyone on the same page with a well-crafted email
  • Values everyone’s time by avoiding the brain-exploding type meeting described above
  • Does much more than just code up a spec

Summary

Simplicity should be at the forefront of our minds when communicating in a business context. The nature of our work makes writing effective emails extremely important. Especially when it comes to mitigating ambiguity and simplifying complex systems. Additionally, you can save your company thousands of dollars in lost time by doing this well. In conclusion, as remote Java devs writing is even more important as our asynchronous communication skills should set us apart from our in-office counterparts.

**Cross post from my blog: The Value of Simplicity

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