Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence

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Are writing skills passe? … Not!

In the new age of social media (and the mature age of email) you might be led to believe that good writing skills are no longer a matter of real concern. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I beg to differ … strongly. In fact, I would argue that good writing skills are one of the top 3 or 4 skills Business Analysts should have, right alongside analytical, abstraction, and people skills. Put simply, poor writing skills are one of the top reasons for ambiguity and miscommunication in written requirements, a major concern everywhere I go. A commenter on one of the forums asked “The last time you hired an analysis, did you test their ability to take a concept and specify it in a way that is unambiguous? That’s a special talent that may be overlooked at the time of hiring sometimes.” Just sometimes?!? I don’t necessarily mean English majors. I mean people who can write clearly about structured or technical subjects … and who can be consistent about the meaning of the words they use. Why aren’t universities producing more of that kind of person? What aren’t companies more careful about cultivating that kind of person? From my work on standards (SBVR), I can tell you that writing skills will become more and more important as time goes by … whereas programming skills … well, we pretty much know where those jobs are headed (if not there already). don’t we?

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Ronald G. Ross

Ronald G. Ross

Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.

Comments (3)

  • Colin Campbell

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    Shouldn’t ““The last time you hired an analysis, did you …”” read as “The last time you hired an analyst, did you …” and “What aren’t companies more careful …” read as “Why aren’t companies more careful …”? I won’t mention glass houses.

    Totally agree with your assessment and have sadly encountered too many younger good thinkers who fall apart when it comes to putting word to paper. Are there any good texts for improving writing skills of mature people who have passed through the education system, even including university, and still can’t handle possessive cases or single vs plural with any degree of confidence. Not English as a second language, but as an abused language!

    Two simple writing skills I adopted early one when producing technical user documentation are:
    1. “one idea (or business rule) per sentence”. This avoided the Proustian labyrinthal paragraphs that plagued the older manuals I was revising. It also rang true with “atomic business rules”; and
    2. “use bullet points wherever possible”. Again structuring information in a much more user friendly manner.

    • Ronald G. Ross

      Ronald G. Ross

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      @Colin,

      Instead of “I adopted early one when producing technical user documentation” shouldn’t that be “I adopted early *on* when producing technical user documentation? (Ha!) This brings me to the rule I learned as Editor of the Data Base Newsletter for 22 years (1977-1999) – You can never have too many eyeballs (for proofreading).

      Your two writing skills … I would call those *rules*. And I agree entirely … RuleSpeak (a structured language for writing business rules — http://www.RuleSpeak.com) follows them explicitly.

      Good stuff.

  • Colin Campbell

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    Yes, I winced when I saw my typo after posting, but then I thought it just levels the score! Glad you saw it.

Comments are closed