How Success is WrittenChapter 4The best way to encourage proficient writing is to demonstrate it
How Success is Written eBook

The best way to encourage proficient writing is to demonstrate it

Dave Nunez

Head of Docs

At Stripe, a passion for writing is something that comes from the top down. “The first emails I saw from our CEO [Patrick Collison] literally had footnotes,” says Dave Nunez, the company’s former Head of Docs. “He structured his emails to be like research papers and put the peripheral information at the bottom so as not to detract from the core information.”

Today, footnotes are a common component of internal emails at Stripe. The CEO set the expectation; employees strive to uphold it. But Collison’s approach to writing did more than demonstrate the value of a footnote. It’s understood that at Stripe:

  1. Writing matters. Make it count.
  2. Everyone’s time is valuable. Make the effort to put together coherent ideas in writing.
  3. The clearer the writing, the clearer your message and intent will be.

“From leadership on down, we default to writing.”

Collison isn’t alone in his passion for high-quality writing. The modus operandi for leadership communications across Stripe is carefully structured narrative documents and emails. You’re far more likely to read a narrative memo during a Stripe project kickoff meeting than to sit through a PowerPoint presentation. “From leadership on down, we default to writing,” Nunez said. “We don’t really have slide decks.”

Leaders at Stripe live by two important values to set the tone of writing culture: 1) They should exemplify high-quality writing in everything they produce. That means citing reputable resources, being economical with words, and striving to minimize errors. 2) Writing should be the default method of sharing knowledge. This means narrative memos, carefully-crafted emails, and clearly written proposals.

Leading by example has worked well. Today, Stripe’s writing culture isn’t just robust, it's also what has helped set the company apart from its peers.