Repeat Yourself, Then Say It Again


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This comes from a talk I’m giving today at DevBeat (and a webinar I gave last month), it explores a key point of the talk in more depth.

Don’t Repeat Yourself. It’s a rule you learn nearly the instant you start programming. As a coder, you feel dirty whenever you find repetitive code. You want to instantly refactor and make it right. K&R, perhaps the seminal work of programming literature, apologizes for repetition on its first page. Maybe, however, this is the best example that when communicating, repetition is the best thing to do.

In fact, outside the world of computer science, this fact is hammered home, by repeating it consistently, throughout every article, book, course, seminar, and workshop on communication. Repetition drives home the point, solidifies ideas, and allows you to state your thoughts in a different way.

Photo by Feral78

Photo by Feral78

I don’t mean, simply, saying the same thing again. I don’t mean, simply, saying the same thing again. That’s often not helpful. What’s more helpful is to state your point again, later, in a slightly different way. Not only does it emphasize what you’ve said but it also gives the audience a chance to re-parse what you said and understand your point, if they did not the first time.

If you’re communicating about technology–in blog posts, conference sessions or within your own team–Do Repeat Yourself. Studies have shown repetition is an extraordinarily powerful tool in communication and teaching and besides, Australian progressive rock bands agree.

For more on this topic (yes, I have more to say) and other lessons about how best to talk tech, watch my Communicating Your Code webinar.


Nick Quinlan is a SendGrid Developer Evangelist based out of San Francisco. He works to make developers lives easier by providing them with the help they need to grow their ideas. Give him a shout, @YayNickQ.

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