Advice from the Masters: Grace Hopper

Dec 10, 2014 | Better Writing

Grace Hopper was unique. For one thing, I doubt there will be another author with a warship named after them. She was also a computer pioneer, so if you’re reading this on a computer, she’s one of the people you should thank. She’s also the only author I’ve ever heard of who was ordered to write a book.

After being commissioned in the Navy in 1944, Hopper was assigned to the Computation Project at Harvard University. That’s where her boss and senior officer, Howard Aiken, ordered her to write a book about the Mark I computer she was working on. It would become a history of the computer and the world’s first programming manual.

Along the way she learned to write clear, crisp, understandable prose. By reading her work aloud she learned the power of that simple technique. In her words:

“if you stumble when you try to read it aloud, you’d better fix that sentence.”

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts

For more on Grace Hopper, here’s an article from the Harvard Gazette where women in computing discuss her legacy and how they can build on it.

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