January 26, 2019: The Elements of Programming Writing Style

Along with my list of unwritten books about programming, I’ve kept a haphazard list of ones that have influenced the way I write about the subject. Sometimes what I’ve learned from them is stylistic, other times it’s about how to shape content, but I think they’re all worth looking at if you’re writing about code.

There are a lot of other rewarding books about computing, and quite a few whose reputation I struggle to understand, but there are the ones that I think have had the most influence on how I write.

What struck me as I compiled this list is that the authors on it are all white and male. I don’t know how that has affected my writing style, but the books I have enjoyed most in the past few years, like Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy or Jahren’s Lab Girl, have made me wonder how many more exemplars of great writing we might have in computing if we were to stop making most people feel unwelcome. As someone who thinks that a well-crafted page is as close to paradise as I’m ever likely to get, I think it’s just one more reason to try to fix what’s broken in our profession.

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