Content Before Grammar

By Leo Hepis

Let’s Test South Africa recently emailed out the first installment of a series of short articles about Crowd-Sourcing Wisdom: As we Write the Book on Testing, our upcoming keynote at Let’s Test South Africa 2016.

When the copy reached my mailbox, I re-read my own article… in horror!

Though the text read word-for-word what I had submitted, reading it fresh only 12 hours later revealed to me its imperfections, including an egregious grammar error I committed.

And to think this was an article about writing.

I panicked.

I wanted to fix that error, but the article was already in mailboxes.  Then, I remembered a key tenet of writing I sometimes forget.

Content before grammar.

In her insightful book Writing The Natural Way, Gabriele Rico laments how some common approaches to teaching writing inadvertently kill student’s motivation to write.  She says, “Formal knowledge of grammar is not a prerequisite [to write the natural way]. Just as a flawless piano-playing technique may not deliver a moving performance, a thorough training in the mechanics of writing does not necessarily produce good writing.”

We can and should use language carefully and with precision, to keep our message clear of ambiguity.  Software, the object of our testing, excels at being unambiguous: the computer does exactly what the code tells it to do.  It’s not a surprise then, that while we engineer software we must use natural language with precision. But all the proper grammar and proper word-choice cannot make up for weak content.

When we meet in South Africa, Ben Segebartt and I will offer you a crash course on writing; as well as an opportunity to crowd-source your wisdom into a fresh body of work through which to share our collective wisdom in software testing.

Click here to register!

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