Writing and Programming: More alike than you may think (Part 3)

This is the last of three posts about some of the similarities I’ve noticed between writing and programming. You can catch yourself up by reading part 1 and part 2.

As I’ve mentioned in both of the previous posts, I’m not trying to make linguistic and programming codes the same thing. And I’m not trying to force some sort of artificial connection between the two.  What I am trying to do is bring together principles from both that might allow us to understand each of them better.

Programming code and linguistic code are undeniably distinct. We can’t compare Ruby or Java to English in the same way we can compare French or Tagalog to Russian.  There’s a big difference, right? But fundamentally, isn’t the purpose of both programming and linguistic codes to do something for a human being? They communicate messages, provide information, enable actions.

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Writing and Programming: More alike than you may think (Part 1)

I always have such ambitious plans for the semester breaks: books to read finish, lesson plans to revamp, furniture to refurb (finally gave up on that one–can someone just take me to Ikea?), trips to take, people to see… sleep to catch up on (Yeah. Right).

Maybe I need to look up the definition of “break.”

Along with a laundry list of other things, one item on my summer to-do list is learning Ruby on Rails. I am frustrated to realize that I remember precious little about object-oriented programming (Uh, what’s a class again?), so I’ve basically resigned myself to starting back at square one.  I’m trying to convince myself that this is a good thing.

While working with Ruby this past week, I started noticing several core principles that can apply to any type of programming language.  I grabbed a sheet of paper, and as I continued to work, I started jotting them down.  As the list grew, I suddenly realized that these were all things I already knew… based on my background writing and teaching writing.

I’m not going to make the argument that computer programming codes and linguistic codes (writing) are the same thing. Clearly they’re not. But the writing processes of  programming languages and human languages actually might have more in common than you think.

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