Simon Willison’s Weblog


19 items tagged “writing”


The only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down

Alex Jason, via Adam Savage # 25th April 2024, 2:17 pm


Write about what you learn. It pushes you to understand topics better. (via) Addy Osmani clearly articulates why writing frequently is such a powerful tool for learning more effectively. This post doesn’t mention TILs but it perfectly encapsulates the value I get from publishing them. # 14th August 2023, 2:50 pm

I literally lost my biggest and best client to ChatGPT today. This client is my main source of income, he’s a marketer who outsources the majority of his copy and content writing to me. Today he emailed saying that although he knows AI’s work isn’t nearly as good as mine, he can’t ignore the profit margin. [...] Please do not think you are immune to this unless you are the top 1% of writers. I just signed up for Doordash as a driver. I really wish I was kidding.

u/Ashamed_Apricot6626 # 11th April 2023, 6:20 pm

I think now of all the kids coming up who are learning to write alongside ChatGPT, just as I learned to write with spell-check. ChatGPT isn’t writing for them; it’s producing copy. For plenty of people, having a robot help them produce serviceable copy will be exactly enough to allow them to get by in the world. But for some, it will lower a barrier. It will be the beginning of their writing career, because they will learn that even though plenty of writing begins with shitty, soulless copy, the rest of writing happens in edits, in reworking the draft, in all the stuff beyond the initial slog of just getting words down onto a page.

Ryan Bradley # 27th February 2023, 6:10 pm


What to blog about

You should start a blog. Having your own little corner of the internet is good for the soul!

[... 502 words]

Writing better release notes

Release notes are an important part of the open source process. I’ve been thinking about these a lot recently, and I’ve assembled some thoughts on how to do a better job with them.

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While copywriting is used to persuade a user to take a certain action, technical writing exists to support the user and remove barriers to getting something done. Good technical writing is hard because writers must get straight to the point without losing or confusing readers.

Stephanie Morillo # 28th December 2020, 3:58 pm


Story Structure 104: The Juicy Details. Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty) wrote a fascinating series of essays on story structure for his Channel 101 film festival project. It’s worth reading the whole series, but this chapter is where things get really detailed. # 25th April 2019, 1:17 pm


I spent more time on my iPhone X review than anything I’ve written in years, and it went to paper twice. (Here’s a scan of my second printed draft, with handwritten revisions.) My thing is that I don’t use my favorite pen — which, of course, has black ink — but instead a pen with red ink. Editing is an angry, bloody act and therefore must be done in red.

John Gruber # 25th January 2018, 1:43 pm


Medicaid Eligibility | (via) Useful resource for helping government writers use clear language. I love that this is an official US government website written using Jekyll and developed entirely in the open on GutHub—the commit history is fascinating. # 20th November 2017, 1:59 am

Hemingway Editor. Hemingway is a web-based editor that applies style checks to your writing. It looks for complicated words, unnecessary adverbs and sentences that are hard to read. It highlighted the previous sentence as hard to read. It gave this whole paragraph a Grade 8 readability score. # 1st November 2017, 8:38 pm


The magic of sub-editors. A neat illustration of how sub-editors work their magic, using the original article with strikes through the parts that were edited out. # 16th February 2010, 10:44 am


What is it like to write a technical book? Plenty of food for thought from the lead author of the new edition of High Performance MySQL. It’s amazing how Word is still an integral part of most technical book projects despite its obvious inadequacies compared to a toolchain based on plain text files and Subversion (the Django Book used ReST and Subversion to great effect). # 20th June 2008, 8:18 am

The Art & Science of JavaScript. The JavaScript book I contributed to is now shipping! My chapter describes how to build a Flickr / Google Maps mashup entirely using client-side code (via JSON-P). # 12th January 2008, 7:05 pm


Chapter 7: Form Processing. The chapter on newforms I contributed to “The Definitive Guide to Django” is now online, along with the rest of the published book. # 16th December 2007, 9:44 pm

Could someone please send, to whomever the hell teaches communication skills/techniques at Microsoft, a copy of the Chicago Manual, and perhaps a sixth—grade grammar text? I swear, there’s almost no one from that company who can write a proper English sentence.

John C. Welch # 12th July 2007, 6:23 pm

Mobile Device Connectivity to Exchange using IMAP vs Exchange ActiveSync (via) I count 14 instances of “experience” in this 1,000 word blog entry. Do real people talk like this? # 12th July 2007, 5:17 pm

When I write a new book [...] I plan to throw away something like the first 30 or so pages. And, because I know I’m going to do it, it doesn’t worry me. I no longer have writer’s block.

Dave Thomas # 24th March 2007, 3:05 pm

Dave Thomas on Writing a Book. A series of articles on writing a technical book, from Pragmatic Programmer Dave Thomas. # 24th March 2007, 2:53 pm