When you fail to connect

Fail to connect and bad communication - two heads with question marks between them

Elucidation: the act of explaining or making something clear.

Thanks to load-shedding, we often have to deal with the issue of “I can’t connect”. But the ability to connect is about more than bits and bytes. And failure to connect is not just about Eskom killing your internet connection.

Everyone needs to communicate

Every business course, self-help book, relationship counsellor will tell you communication is important. You know this.  Employees complain that managers don’t tell them what’s going on. Managers complain about employees not talking to them. Developers complain about project managers not listening.

There is a myth that developers sit in a dark corner surrounded by the glow of monitors, and avoid people. This is exactly that: a myth. Developers come in all shapes and sizes, from life-of-the-party to just-leave-me-alone. Regardless, developers need to communicate – with users, other developers, managers and clients.

Everyone needs to write

I am that unusual creature who likes writing documentation. (I was going to use the term “unicorn” as in “a person that is rare or highly valued”. But the term has too many strange connotations. And I’m not that rare or highly valued.)

Over the years I’ve realised that clear writing is a skill. I’ve also realised how few people have that skill. Worst of all, I’ve realised how few people try to improve their skill.

Here’s the problem: everyone has to write. I’m not talking about code comments and documentation, although that is essential. You have to write emails, reports, specs, proposals and a hundred different things.

The onus is on you

You can blame your cellphone provider for dropped calls. You can blame Eskom for your network glitches. But when it comes to communicating with other people, it’s your job to connect. The onus is on you to elucidate: to explain what you mean clearly.

When your writing is poor, you have failed to connect.

The two main mistakes

There are two kinds of mistakes people make when they write:

  • Poor writing – bad spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. This is a topic for another day. But there are no excuses – even if English is not your first language. There are plenty of tools to help you. And it’s part of your job.

  • Fancy writing – unnecessary jargon, long words and convoluted sentences. This is often called “academese”, because it is so popular with academics.

In IT, like any industry, we need names for concepts that are specific to our industry. So we have to use some jargon. (And that’s also a topic for another day.) But excess use of jargon is poor communication.

Declutter your writing – or: a great example of academese

At the start of a week, I never know what I’m going to write about. But I will read or hear or experience something that triggers a thought process that I want to share. So what sparked today’s topic?

I have a passion for decluttering. Currently I spend my evenings helping my sister in the UK declutter. By coincidence I came across this. It is an extract from a study by the Princeton Neuroscience Institute:

“Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout the visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”

Huh? In simple English: clutter makes you less focused.

So what did you understand better: my simple sentence or the quote? Think about this the next time you write something. Remember, it’s your job to be clear.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thank You

We're Excited!

Thank you for completing the form. We're excited that you have chosen to contact us about training. We will process the information as soon as we can, and we will do our best to contact you within 1 working day. (Please note that our offices are closed over weekends and public holidays.)

Don't Worry

Our privacy policy ensures your data is safe: Incus Data does not sell or otherwise distribute email addresses. We will not divulge your personal information to anyone unless specifically authorised by you.

If you need any further information, please contact us on tel: (27) 12-666-2020 or email info@incusdata.com

How can we help you?

Let us contact you about your training requirements. Just fill in a few details, and we’ll get right back to you.