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RE: English is tough

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Technical writing was a required class when I went school, which wasn't too
long ago.  It was only a semester and was, IMHO, a very good class.  We
worked on writing engineering reports, manuals, letters to clients, etc.  We
basically practiced to write short, concise, to the point documents.  But
what railroaded me was when I started working.

I would write my letters and reports that explained things simply.  Doing my
best to do what I was taught in school.  When my boss would proof read them
they always came back with a lot of red marks that resulted in my report
being substantially longer and not concise at all.  

For example, the following sentace:  The beam is exhibiting a deflection
greater then one inch at midspan.

Would turn into:  The beam, located at the southwest corner of the building
in question, spanning in the north-south direction, supporting the new
masonry partition wall, is apparently deflection greater then one inch at

Why do I have to write a run on sentence to explain all that when all the
supporting information is already in the paragraph?  Basically, I was told I
had write like this because of lawyers who nit pick sentances in a court
room.  Now, I've never been in court to defend a sentence before, but this
seems ridiculouos.  

I think part of the problem is most engineers think they have to write in
legelese to cover their butts.

Go Blue.

Alden Manipula

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Maxwell [mailto:smaxwell(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2003 11:59 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: English is tough

So, let me get this straight...

After we went through this whole bit (by some) that too much time in
undergraduate engineering education is wasted on non-engineering things like
humanities (which includes English to my knowledge), we have decide that
colleges don't do enough to "teach engineers to speak and write correctly,"
eh?  (And it still bothers me to no end that to my knowledge the comma is
supposed to be inside the quotation marks for "proper" just
ain't be lookin' write...pun and mistake intented)  No wonder schools can't
get it right...we don't even seem to really know what we want (other than to
make future engineering students attend college for about 25 years to the
cost of $1.5 million so that they can become experts at EVERYTHING meaning
that we [the engineering profession] don't have to expend any effort to
mentor, train, or educate our young engineers).

Now, this is were I will point out that in my mind (in otherwords, to my
understanding) things like being able to read and write correctly are
supposed to be taught to kid PRIOR to entering college.  Thus, for all
intents and purposes, engineers should be just as well spoken (and
written) as any other profession, with the exception of those that major in
English.  The primary difference MIGHT be that engineering schools don't
REINFORCE what was taught in K-12 as well as some other majors do. After
all, we tend to spend most of our class time dealing with numbers rather
than words.  Thus, since engineers tend to get a nice 4 year period of
little writing, we are allowed to get sloppy with our use of the English

And, FWIW, I personally don't buy the notion that engineers don't get
respect because we don't speak or write correctly.  I personally maintain
that the biggest reasons that we don't get respect is that 1) not too many
people really understand what engineers do and 2) we don't really do it for
the respect, unlike some architectural designers that do elaborate designs
that end up being momuments to their egos (not all do this but many do...I
have dealt with quite a few even in my young career).


Ypsilanti, MI

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