Back in 2009, Bruce Eckel wrote an essay that I wish I’d written.
“I finally figured out the right analogy for software development,” Bruce wrote. “Alas, the target audience for this analogy won’t be happy with it.”
Writing software has been likened to everything from math to science to engineering to handicrafts. Bruce’s insight was that what writing software is most like is writing.
Bruce is not the only person to make this connection. In Clean Code, Robert C. Martin says, “We are authors.” Butler Lampson predicted back in 1972 that programmers would soon become more like poets than like aircraft designers. A blogger at Coding the Wheel even wrote a detailed analysis of Strunk and White as a manual for programmers.
I think that this is a delightful and, more to the point, a highly useful analogy.
And it works both ways. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that writers should think of themselves as programmers, but I would say that any writer can improve their prose greatly by applying methods that the best programmers use. I hope to explore this idea in future posts.