So What

Writing my statement of purpose while applying to graduate schools in the US, a solid piece of advice I got was to question every bit of my writing and learn to ask “So What?”. When someone else is reading anything you write, they are not conscious about the context under which you think it matters. There’s so much content for them to go through, why should they handpick what you have written and choose to understand why it is something worth caring about? Good writing makes them want to care.

I think I do this very often now, since content on the internet becomes permanent – whether you like it or not. It may and will most likely be cached in a corner you do not have the ability to change. There’s no harm in maintaining good judgement of what you want associated with your name forever. You don’t want to make a harmless post seem like excess baggage (like ‘claim chowder’, memes, and other labels that carry a negative connotation) some time later.

I was reminded of this by a recent comment on a research paper I wrote that got accepted and will be presented in a conference soon. The approval note recommends some edits: “we know this is important, let’s make it matter for the world”.