Three ways to improve your writing
Read these three texts. Each is short, but the benefits will last a long time. Heeding their advice will improve your life. It will improve mine too, if I ever read what you write.
- Minicourse on Technical Writing by Donald Knuth. When an undergraduate I had the great fortune to take Knuth's course on algorithms, which included a couple of lectures on technical writing. If my writing is readable, that owes much to Knuth. Later, Knuth ran a semester-long seminar on the subject, which you'll find at the end of this link. The first three sections are the minicourse, and worth their weight in gold.
I endorse all he says, save that in Section 1, Point 24, I think even the 'good' examples are bad. Better to find a vigorous verb for the vital first sentence, rather than dull 'is' or 'are'.
- Politics and the English Language by George Orwell. The predecessor of Haskell was named Orwell, and the user manual began with this quotation from the essay:
A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.Orwell explains why you cannot think clearly unless you express yourself clearly, and gives rules of thumb to help ensure the latter.
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E. B. White. The book is 105 pages and costs under five pounds. It could be the best five pounds you ever spent.
If you're too cheap to buy the book, Bartelby has an online version of the first edition, Strunk before White.