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Technical Writing for Engineers. by Dr. Aly N. El-Bahrawy Faculty of Engineering, Ain Shams University. Engineers and Writing. Engineers write a lot Engineers write many kinds of documents Successful engineers require strong writing skills Engineers can learn to write well

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technical writing for engineers
Technical Writingfor Engineers

by

Dr. Aly N. El-Bahrawy

Faculty of Engineering, Ain Shams University

engineers and writing
Engineers and Writing
  • Engineers write a lot
  • Engineers write many kinds of documents
  • Successful engineers require strong writing skills
  • Engineers can learn to write well

No one can be a good writer –

only a good rewriter

slide3

Noise and the Communication Process

Noise possibilities

Mess-

age

Mess-

age

Encoder

(sender)

Channel

(speech,

writing,

etc.)

Decoder

(receiver)

Noise possibilities

Anything that causes reader to hesitate due to

uncertainty, confusion or frustration

is noise

slide4

Technical Writing Process

Planning

Drafting

Reviewing

Mechanics

Purpose

Grammar

Readers

Initial

Draft

Style

Research

Outline

Content

guidelines for good english writing
Guidelines for Good English Writing
  • Why you are writing?
  • Your readers
  • To the point
  • Document specifications
  • Accurate information
  • Logical material
  • Clear expression
guidelines for good english writing6
Guidelinesfor Good English Writing
  • Efficient wording
  • Accessible ideas
  • Information lists
  • Page formatting
  • Time management
why you are writing
Why you are writing?
  • Purpose
    • Inform
    • Request
    • Instruct
    • Propose
    • Recommend
    • Persuade
    • Record
your readers
Consider their

Needs

Interests

Level of expertise

Possible reaction

They can be your

Peers

Supervisors

Subordinates

Your Readers
bridging the gap
Bridging the Gap

Ask yourself questions

  • Knowledge
    • Different field, different audience
  • Ability
    • Level and vocabulary, unreasonable expectations
  • Interest
    • Purpose, level of detail, attitude
document specifications
Document Specifications
  • Length of document
    • Brief memo, specs, RFP
  • Topic
  • Editor requirements
    • No of words, format
to the point
To the Point
  • Most important at the beginning
  • Managers need the ‘bottom line’
  • Kind of document
    • Letter (opening sentence)
    • Memo (subject line)
    • E-mail (concise subject heading)
    • Report (informative title, executive summary)
accurate information
Accurate Information
  • Errors make readers lose confidence
  • Examples of errors
    • Incorrect reference, inaccurate directions, claims true under certain conditions
  • Difference between fact and opinion
logical material
Logical Material
  • Chronological
    • progress of trip report
  • From most to least important
    • no of points
  • Order of familiarity or difficulty
    • Text book
  • From general to specific
    • memo
clear expression
Clear Expression
  • Engineering is a precise discipline
  • Sentence must convey a single meaning with no room for interpretation

or misunderstanding

  • Pitfalls to avoid
    • Ambiguity, vagueness, coherence, directness
clear expression15
Clear Expression
  • Ambiguity
    • Point to more than one referent in a sentence
  • Vagueness
    • Words causing no useful meaning to reader
  • Coherence
    • Paragraphs and documents should stick together and be focused on subject
  • Directness
    • Access to information should be quick and easy
example of ambiguity
Example of Ambiguity
  • Before accepting material from the new subcontractors, we should make sure they meet our requirements.
  • We should make sure the materials from the new contractors meet our requirements before accepting them.
example of vagueness
Example of Vagueness
  • The Robotics group is several weeks behind schedule.
  • The Robotics group is six weeks behind schedule
example of coherence
Example of Coherence
  • A significant advantage of the 125-H CRT is its high power consumption. The tube requires substantial power to produce the high voltages and currents that are necessary to drive and deflect the electron beam. The 125-H is inefficient – only about 10% to 20% of the power used by the tube is converted into visible light at the surface of the screen. The 125-H is poorly suited for portable display devices that run on batteries, where lower consumption is necessary. We should consider other options before committing to purchase the 125-H.
example of coherence19
Example of Coherence
  • A significant advantage of the 125-H CRT is its high power consumption. This tube requires substantial power to produce the high voltages and currents that are necessary to drive and deflect the electron beam. In addition, the 125-H is inefficient – only about 10% to 20% of the power used by the tube is converted into visible light a the surface of the screen. Thus, the 125-H is poorly suited for portable display devices that run on batteries, where lower consumption is necessary. Because of this drawback, we should consider other options before committing to purchase the 125-H.
example of directness
Example of Directness
  • After the long and difficult development cycle due to factory renovation, the infrared controller will be ready for production in the near future.
  • The infrared controller will be ready for production March 4. Its development cycle was sloweddown by the factory renovation.
efficient wording
Efficient Wording
  • Cost to produce one written page (15-20$)
  • Wordiness
    • Simplest and plainest word

‘Never utilize utilize when you can use use’

    • Let your writing ‘cool off’ for a while, then come back to edit later
example of wordiness
Example of Wordiness
  • You may often find that there are a number of words contained in your writing that can be safely eliminated without any kind of danger to your meaning whatsoever
  • Can you fix it?
example of wordiness23
Example of Wordiness
  • You may often find that there are anumber of words contained in your writing that can be safely eliminated without any kind of danger to your meaning whatsoever
  • You may find words that can be eliminated without danger to your meaning
examples of wordiness
Examples of Wordiness
  • I regret to say that at this point in time I basically do not have access to that specific information.
  • I do not know.
  • It is our considered recommendation that a new computer should be purchased.
  • We recommend buying a new computer.
wordiness table words
commence

compel

comprises

employ

endeavor

fabricate

finalize

Initiate

optimal

prioritize

start

force

is

use

try

make

end

begin

best

rank

Wordiness Table (words)
wordiness table phrases
a large number of

at this point in time

come in contact with

exhibits the ability to

in the event of

in some cases

in view of the fact that

in the neighborhood of

many

now

contact

can

if

sometimes

because

about

Wordiness Table (phrases)
efficient wording27
Efficient Wording
  • Redundancy
    • Using words that say the same thing

(e.g. basic fundamentals, connected together)

  • Turning verbs into nouns
    • Wanting to write in the passive rather than the active voice

(e.g. made a selection – selected,

investigation was undertaken – investigated)

table of redundancy
alternative choices

actual experience

completely eliminate

Just exactly

exactly identical

prove conclusively

rectangular in shape

12 noon

very best

alternatives

experience

eliminate

exactly

identical

prove

rectangular

noon

best

Table of Redundancy
accessible ideas
Accessible Ideas
  • Subdivision into sections and sub-sections
    • Hierarchical headings

FIRST Second (indent)Third

    • Numbered headings

1.0 1.1 1.1.1

    • Paragraph length

Under 12 lines or less, avoid orphans and widows

information lists
Information Lists
  • Numbered
    • Order of importance, ≤ 7 items
  • Checklists
    • All items must be tended to (usu. in order)
  • Bulleted
    • No specific order
information lists31
Information Lists
  • Punctuation
    • Lead-in ends with a verb, use no colon
      • Some of the main concerns of environmental

engineering are

        • air pollution
        • solid waste disposal
        • public water supply
    • Lead-in is a complete statement, use colon
      • Some of the main concerns of environmental

engineering are as follows:

information lists32
Information Lists
    • Items are complete statement, use period.

Otherwise, use no punctuation

      • The group accomplishments are as follows:
        • Logic design was completed.
        • Final simulations were run.
        • Test patterns were debugged.
    • Consistent capitalization
  • Grammatical parallelism
    • Same beginning (verb, noun, etc.)
page formatting
Page Formatting
  • Readers like visually pleasing print
  • Margins
    • One inch all around, ragged right-hand margin, extra left margin for binding
  • White space
    • Provides ‘breathing room’
page formatting34
Page Formatting
  • Typeface
    • Serif (larger quantity of text) and sans serif (headings)
      • The electric car prototype has regenerative braking, which recharges the supply while decelerating the vehicle.
      • The electric car prototype has regenerative braking, which recharges the supply while decelerating the vehicle.
time management
Time Management
  • Finding and using time
    • breaks, laptops in waiting rooms, hotels, at airport, on trains, etc.
  • Outlines, deadlines, and time lines
  • Collaborative writing
    • Team writing is not easy (divide work among persons, finish and pass to the next, or assign each person a different task)