Writing is an increasingly large part of the engineering process, with many professional engineers spending over 60 percent of their time writing letters, memos, proposals, reports, and specification documents. The trend in many government and engineering firms now is to hire technicians for the technical work. Fifteen years ago, one city that had a population of 100,000 people employed eight engineers. It now employs three, and 20 certified technicians.
Writing is a skill that, like any other, can be developed. When you are learning to ski, you can watch the Olympic slalom, you might take lessons and have the pros tell you to "plant your pole, unweight, and turn," the instructor might demonstrate on a mogul for you - and then you can put on the skis and fall flat on your face. Before you master skiing, you have to slide down the hill a few times, trying to plant the pole and bend the knees, learning to turn and stop. This is a good analogy for writing: you need to learn the basics, understand what is expected, and then write and rewrite until the words run effortlessly on the page.
Some experts say that one can't write well - cannot write clean, coherent English - without reading well-written books, books that have been written with "force and freshness." Yes, good reading is important (and some good reports by experienced engineers are works of art), but most of us have read Shakespeare and we still do not write well. Attention, care, concentration, observation, effort, revision - and practice, practice, practice - will steadily improve your skill in technical writing.
This book is based on the premise that with knowledge of some basic writing principles, and how they apply to the special writing tasks that engineers are called upon to perform, engineering students can prepare themselves for the responsibilities they will face in this field today.
Part I General Principles of Writing and Communicating in Engineering
WRITING AND PROBLEM-SOLVING IN ENGINEERING
GENERAL WRITING SKILLS
SPECIAL WRITING SKILLS NEEDED IN ENGINEERING
THE WRITING PROCESS IN ENGINEERING
THE VISUAL ELEMENT 64
Part II Specific Communication Tasks of Engineers
OPENING A FILE: PROFESSIONAL DOCUMENTATION
LETTERS AND MEMOS: STYLES AND ELEMENTS
CREDENTIALS PACKAGE; COMPANY PROFILE; RESUME
SPECIFICATION DOCUMENTS AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT REPORTS
THE JOURNAL ARTICLE OR CONFERENCE PAPER
WRITING TASKS FOR MEETINGS
Appendix A: Common Punctuation Problems
Appendix B: A Sample Recommendation Report