DRY doesn't apply when you're speakingFriday, Dec 28, 2012 · 400 words · approx 2 mins to read
DRY — don’t repeat yourself — is a popular principle in software engineering, mainly aimed at reducing repetition in code and systems. I try and apply it to any engineering pipeline as a whole, and it usually doesn’t take any second thoughts if you’re trying to engineer in simplicity to your systems.
I used to think it was also handy advice when trying to communicate with people, primarily verbally. The round trip back to something you’ve already said seems redundant and I tried to avoid it when possible.
What I’ve noticed in recent years is that it’s somewhat essential, especially when explaining something materially complex to someone. There are benefits for both parties, too.
I’ve often caught myself becoming more confident in what I’m saying the second time around, as I take the subconscious trip back down the road I just travelled. Repeating myself lets me listen to what I’ve just said, as if I was the person I just spoke to, giving me a chance to change intonation and put more weight behind certain points I’m making.
Apparently just as common is the situation where, during the repetition, I find that I’ve made a mistake first time around and I need to explain it slightly (or completely!) differently. I correct myself and explain it again, and the natural loop that my brain wants to make has helped both sides. That usually happens when I’ve mistakenly inverted some logic in my argument or been an order of magnitude out when discussing a scale.
If it’s a complex topic there’s often value in putting something across with different context or terms, just to make sure it sticks, not just with who you’re talking to but also yourself.
It doesn’t have to confer a lack of authority when you speak, as long as you don’t hesitate between the loops, I find, and it tends not to happen when you’re writing because you can spend more time thinking about what you’re about to say.