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RE: English is tough

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Technical writing was also a required course while I was at Michigan as an
undergrad.  I also had to take a freshman English class.  But, then the
freshman English class was much more of a composition/creative
writing/writing class that something more "technical" like grammer.  The
grade in that class was more a function of pleasing the instructor by
writing in a style that they liked rather then "writing correctly".

I also had to write techinical reports for my basic geotect/soils class
and for my hydraulics class.  Again, the format and techinical content of
the reports was much more important than the least in the
scores/grades.  I also had a variety of other classes here and there that
had some sort of written report (did a paper on the Cypress Viaduct
collapse during the Loma Prieta earthquake in course covering design for
dynamic forces).

The last class that I had that really covered the "technical" aspect of
the English language was my freshman English class in high school.  I did
not make the honors English class that year, which like the honors English
classes I had as sophmore and junior was more of a composition/writing and
literature course rather than things like grammer.  To be honest, I
consider my freshman high school English course better and much more
useful than anything that I had in any of the honors English course that I

As to writing on the job, I understand and sypathize.  But, in reality,
that is nothing.  I am helping someone out doing a little research on car
emission issues.  As a result, I had to read parts of the 1977 Clean Air
Act.  Let's just say that reading the law out of Congress (full of lawyers
and "legal speak") made reading _ANY_ model building code provision seem
crystal clear.  It was only about 6 pages of stuff to read, but there were
so many run on sentances and other "legal speak" that my head was
literally hurting.  No wonder lawyers make so much money...any one that
can sit there and read (or write) that blather deserves to be paid large
sums of money.  Just six pages of it and I was looking for the nearest
cliff to jump off managed to be mind numbing and painful at the
same time!!


Ypsilanti, MI

A Michigan Alum trying to guess which game(s) my football team will blow
before the season is done so as to continue a fine tradition of losing to
at least one team that they have no business losing to.  But, regardless
it is football season, which is good in my book no matter what Michigan
does or does not do.

On Tue, 2 Sep 2003, Alden Manipula wrote:

> 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
> midspan.
> 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
> language.
> 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).
> Regards,
> Scott
> Ypsilanti, MI
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