How to communicate effectively as a developer

Via Chris Coyier I found this great post by Karl Sutt on How to communicate effectively as a developer. I especially appreciate him pointing out the importance of communicating clearly in short-form writing like Slack messages. His example of “low-resolution” vs. “high-resolution” writing in that context is a useful reminder for all of us:

In both cases, the example on the left is what I call “low-resolution writing”. There is very little context, too much reliance on pronouns and unclear references. The writing is not emphatic—the reader has to spend extra energy to work out what is being said. The examples on the right, on the other hand, try to make the reader do less work, even though it is more effort for the writer. The writer clearly has thought about how the message will be read.

This idea is similar to what Erin Meyer refers to as “high-context” vs. “low-context” communication in her (excellent) book The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business. She explains in this HBR article:

I compare cultures along the Communicating scale by measuring the degree to which they are high- or low-context, a metric developed by the American anthropologist Edward Hall. In low-context cultures, good communication is precise, simple, explicit, and clear. Messages are understood at face value. Repetition is appreciated for purposes of clarification, as is putting messages in writing. In high-context cultures, communication is sophisticated, nuanced, and layered. Messages are often implied but not plainly stated. Less is put in writing, more is left open to interpretation, and understanding may depend on reading between the lines.

Choosing the right communication style for the right context is an important skill for everyone, but especially product (and other) leaders. If we assume too much context is known, people will misinterpret what we mean with our words.