How many times in your professional career have you been asked to spell something, or asked if a word is hyphenated? How many times are you asked whether to use “that” or “which” in a sentence?

We are the grammar police, the word monkeys, and many of us revel in that role (if not the title). Typically we possess greater information about writing than anyone else in the company, and rightly so as it is the main focus of our job.

However I am trying to stop answering these questions directly, instead I’m trying to direct people towards an answer. The reasons are two-fold.

Firstly it’s always better if people learn things first hand, helping to break the dependency for the future. In other words it stops people relying on you to remember things for them. It stops you being asked the same question, over and over and over. That can be annoying.

Secondly, and this is a subtle point, it re-enforces the notion that ALL we do is write words, that all we consider is grammar and spelling, that all we bring to a development team are documents. I don’t know about you but that’s not the case for me, never has been and never will.

It’s easy to quickly hand out information when someone leans over your desk, but maybe we need to be a little more careful. As (typically) a minority group in a software development team we have to work hard to prove and maintain our value, so maybe we need to distance ourselves a little from such matters.