August 24, 2013

Commas, parentheses and exclamations — Oh my!

Brent Simmons recently posted a piece titled “Commas for Developers” on his blog:

You have an array of options: semicolons, colons, dashes, and words such as “and” and “but.” You can turn independent clauses into dependent clauses. But you can’t jam two sentences together with a comma.

When you do, my opinion of and trust in your work goes down.

This is not, by the way, some prissy thing about proper manners. Fuck that shit. I’m not trying to squash your voice. This is about quality and trust.

Sorry Brent but this just makes me want to write less (and that is shit).

By all means encourage people to improve their writing skills, but quality is about so many more things than the writer’s ability to correctly punctuate in your native tongue.

I admire the way that developers like Matt Gemmell have made a concerted effort to improve their writing in public. The thing that appears to have been forgotten here is that it’s a process. Were Matt’s pieces half as good two years ago? I wouldn’t think so — he’s had plenty of practice in that time.

I am sad to see Matt “wholeheartedly” agrees with Brent’s stance. Surely there’s a way to promote the same message in a positive manner?

Here’s my take: Don’t be afraid to write, even if your ability to do so is out of sync with your ideas and passion — you’ll get better by writing and reading more. I agree that correct spelling and punctuation is a sign of quality, but it’s hardly the only factor.

nb. Please feel free to let me know where I’ve incorrectly punctuated — I paid little attention in my English classes, and I could do with the feedback.