Keep it Simple, Crisp, Clear – Communication Lesson #1 from Grace Hopper and Howard Aiken


The InnovatorsIn fact, it was more common than it would be a generation later. The number of American women who got doctorates in math during the 1930s was 113, which was 15 percent of the total number of American math doctorates. During the decade of the 1950s, only 106 American women got math doctorates, which was a mere 4 percent of the total.
• from Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators

Grace Hopper earned her PhD in Math from Yale in 1934. She basically invented what became computer programming…

She was ready to do something that mattered, joined the Navy, working for/with Howard Aiken. She believed Aiken and Hopperthat math experts needed to write well—clearly enough for non-math people to understand what was written. From the book:

Innovation requires articulation.
“You are going to write a book,” he (Aiken) said one day, standing next to her desk. “I can’t write a book,” she replied. “I’ve never written one.” “Well, you’re in the Navy now,” he declared. “You are going to write one.”
“He pointed out that if you stumble when you try to read it aloud, you’d better fix that sentence. Every day I had to read five pages of what I had written.” Her sentences became simple, crisp, and clear.

So… some communication lessons.

Write your pages.
Read them aloud.
Make them simple, clear, crisp.
When you don’t stumble over them, they are ready…

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