Writing in Engineering : A Guide to Communicating

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Poor communication skill is the Achilles' heel of many engineers, both young and experienced—and it can even be a career showstopper. In fact, poor communication skills have probably claimed more casualties than corporate downsizing. It is nearly impossible to overstate the benefits of being able to write well. The importance of the written word in storing, sharing, and communicating ideas at all levels of all organizations makes a poor facility with the mechanics of writing a severely career-limiting fault.

John E. Plot the output waveform on the HP digital scope. Obtain a Bode plot for the gain from Hz to 20 kHz. Use a numbered list for items in a required order. Numbered lists can also be used to indicate an order of importance in your data, such as a list of priorities or needed equipment. To set up the computer: 1.

Writing for engineers: clarity of communication

Connect the monitor to the computer through the monitor port. Connect the keyboard and mouse to the computer through the ASF port. Connect the power supply to the computer. Connect the printer to the printer port. Connect the modem to the modem port. Make Your Ideas Accessible 51 3. When any list gets longer than ten items, try to break them down into smaller, more manageable sections and give each section its own subheading or lead-in.

Avoid lengthy bulleted lists—over seven items. When list items themselves are lengthy, get some vertical space between them. If you have sublist items in a required order, use lowercase letters.

If the sublist items are in no required order, use a less prominent symbol for example, a clear disc or an en dash. Make sure all lists begin with a lead-in, as the examples here illustrate. Punctuate list items with a period if they are complete sentences or contain embedded dependent clauses. Be consistent with how you capitalize list items that are not complete sentences. Make list items parallel in phrasing. For example, if some entries begin with a verb, all entries should do so; if all begin with a noun, all should.

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This makes for smoother reading and logical neatness. Note See the chapter in the website companion corresponding to this one for steps on creating and formatting the different kinds of lists for your reports. A busy manager, for example, will want to scan your information as quickly as possible. When your readers are trying to follow demanding technical information, they are already challenged, and presenting it to them in solid page-long chunks is discouraging. When editing your work, look for any overly long paragraphs and try splitting them—for example, at a change of topic or type of writing from concepts to examples.

When you split paragraphs, remember that you may have to add a transitional word or phrase. With so much writing in industry, costs mount up.


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A little training in being concise and in sharpening your writing and editing skills can save time and money—plus much time-consuming work for your readers. Inflated Words and Wordiness Choose the simplest and plainest word whenever you can. Unkind editors sometimes refer to this as verbiage by analogy to garbage? Similarly, your reader is unlikely to thank you for having to plow through when you could have simply said you recommend buying a new computer. Concise: I do not know. Wordy: It is our considered recommendation that a new computer should be purchased.

Concise: We recommend the purchase of a new computer. You can eliminate a lot of wordiness in your writing by training yourself to edit carefully and to make every word count. Wordy: It is essential that the lens be cleaned at frequent intervals on a regular basis as is delineated in Ops Procedure c. Concise: Clean the lens frequently and regularly see Ops Procedure c.

Wordy: The location of the experimental robotics laboratory is in room A. Noise-free: The experimental robotics lab is in A. Wordy: There are several EC countries that are now trying to upgrade the communication skills of their engineers. Concise: Several EC countries are trying to upgrade the communication skills of their engineers.

Redundancy Redundancy refers to the use of words that say the same thing, like basic fundamentals, or phrases that duplicate what has already been said, as in They decided to reconstruct a hypothetical test situation that does not exist.

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In fact, if you master the art of redundancy, you can make everything you write almost twice as long as need be. Revision: The company may not be awarded the contract because it lacks production facilities. What does the preceding revision leave out other than unnecessary words? The passive voice turns it around: The report was written by the engineer. Thus the active voice emphasizes the performer of the action—the engineer, in our example—while the passive emphasizes the recipient of the action, the report.

They might write It was ascertained that. Perhaps such hedging is necessary at times since it helps conceal responsibility and gives us no one to blame! The passive voice is certainly appropriate when writing up your research or describing a process, for example. The bridge was torn down in The contaminated material is then taken to a safe environment. Sometimes the passive will give variety to your writing, even if your inclination is to write predominantly in the active voice. This claim has now been tested by our group and we have found that the architecture really induces little or no unpredictability.

Moreover, data gained from our study show how the execution times can be predicted. It was also found that. Passive-voice problem: A system for delineating these factors is shown in Figure 5. Revision: Figure 5 shows a system for delineating these factors. Passive-voice problem: By switching off the motor when it started to vibrate and looking at the tachometer, the resonant frequency was determined. Revision: We determined the resonant frequency by switching off the motor when it started to vibrate and looking at the tachometer. The passive can become especially problematic in procedures or instructions: Passive-voice problem: The button is pressed twice.

Revision: Press the button twice. Passive-voice problem: Previously entered data in the database is eliminated by the Edit menu being opened and Select All being chosen. Revision: Eliminate previously entered data in the database by opening the Edit menu and choosing Select All.

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Books - Technical Writing for Scientists, Engineers and IT Professionals - Library guides at QUT

Nowadays engineering writers are getting away from the rigid use of the pas- sive. Pedestrian power By showing that a person is involved in A UK company called Pavegen has the work, you are doing no more than developed tiles that harvest kinetic admitting reality. Also, the active voice energy from pedestrians walking gives credit where credit is due. If we on them. Revision: Employees have frequently complained about the food served in the company cafeteria.

Revision: Sumerians are credited with the invention of writing toward the end of the fourth millennium BCE. Revision: We will analyze the data when all the results are in. Revision: The protocol handler acknowledges all incoming messages. Notice the problem version has three expletives! Weak expletive: It is the results of studies of the central region of the M87 galaxy that have shown that there are stars near the center that move around as though there were some huge mass at the center attracting them. Revision: Results of studies of the central region of the M87 galaxy show that stars near the center move around as though some huge mass at the center were attracting them.

Mind-Numbing Noun Stacks Another problem, particularly in the technical world, involves jamming three or more nouns together into a phrase, which is called a noun stack. Noun stack: Install a hazardous materials dispersion monitor system. Revision: Install a system for monitoring the dispersal of hazardous materials.

Chapter 1. Engineering Your Writing Process

True, the revisions have more words but are more understandable. This problem is known as a faulty predication. Faulty predication: The causes of the disappearance of the early electric automobiles were devastating to the future of energy conservation in the United States.


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Revision: The disappearance of the early electric automobiles was devastating to the future of energy conservation in the United States.