Math and writing

Subject: Math and writing
From: Richard Mateosian <srm -at- C2 -dot- ORG>
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 1994 01:06:02 -0800

Somebody asked, so I'll tell you. I was always pretty good at math in grade
school, but in high school I ran into a really inspiring math teacher. One
thing led to another, and now I have a Ph.D. in math from U.C. Berkeley.

Writing was harder. I had a tenth grade English teacher who demanded a lot
but made it fun: Read the Mikado tonight, and prepare 50 multiple choice
questions about it. Be prepared for a quiz on the eleven adverbial
connectives. In twelfth grade I had to prepare a 25-page paper on
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and the underlying "new physics." I did
it on my old mechanical typewriter, and errors were unthinkable.

Engineering school provided few opportunities for writing. In graduate
school I recast hundreds of pages of my thesis advisor's stream of
consciousness into journal articles on the algebraic theory of machines,
languages, and semigroups.

Computer programming brought the two lines together for me. In the course of
10 to 15 years of programming in macro assembly languages I strove for ways
to organize information and express myself clearly--to the machine and to
other programmers. I wrote constantly to document my work and that of the
others I worked with. I devoured books like Strunk & White, and its
immitator, The Elements of Programming Style by Kernighan and Plauger. I
read the Fowlers, Graves & Hodge, Barzun, Dijkstra, and many other
opinionated writers.

After all that, about 15 years ago I wrote my first book, Programming the
Z8000, and the next year I wrote Inside BASIC Games. There followed a
sojourn in the world of technical marketing, during which I wrote and
presented dozens of conference papers and trade press articles.

Four years ago I left all that behind and declared myself officially a
technical writer. It hasn't all been fun, but I'm beginning to get the hang
of it. ...RM

Richard Mateosian Technical Writer in Berkeley CA srm -at- c2 -dot- org

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