If we taught writing the way we try to teach programming...

Imagine if we tried to teach writing (in English or any other natural language) the way we try to teach programming.

We'd give students dictionaries and grammar books. We'd lecture them on the abstract structure of stories. We'd give them dreadful stuff to read - only things written by the most junior writers, like advanced underclassmen or young grad students (some of whom can indeed write well, but most of whom are dreadful). We'd keep the great literature secret. Shakespeare would be locked up in a corporate vault somewhere. Dickens would be classified Secret by the government. Twain would have been burned by his literary executor to prevent it competing with his own efforts.

And when people take jobs as writers (here the analogy begins to break down) their primary assignments for the first five to fifteen years of their working lives will be copy editing large works that they won't have time to read end-to-end, for which there is no table of contents or index, and which they receive in a large pile of out-of-order, unnumbered pages, half of which are torn, crumpled, smudged, or otherwise damaged.

Is it any wonder that good programmers are so rare in the wild?


Posted to a mailing list by Marc Donner on August 25, 2002.

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Last updated August 26, 2002

Article copyright 2002 Marc Donner.
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