Many engineers may do better on the math section of the SAT exam than they do on the verbal section, but that still doesn't give them a license to be lousy writers.
Of course, to be fair, technical professionals do have a tough job when it comes to communicating. Not only do engineers have to be correct in the grammatical sense, but they also are faced with the challenge of explaining technically complex subjects to engineers and non-engineers alike. Failure to communicate in a clear, concise manner usually stops career advancement short.
Jane Dunphy, an MIT professor who teaches students how to be better communicators, hopes to stamp out bad writing in the business world, particularly among engineers. Read about her secrets of the trade (and why PowerPoint isn't to blame) in our BMOC column on page 18. She also conducts seminars for working professionals—a service that many engineers could benefit from, judging by some of the copy I see coming across my desk.
Just how bad is the writing? Below are some examples of some awful sentences written by engineers—your peers—most of whom, at least I think, claim English as their first language. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty from embarrassment, although for their own good I am tempted to refer them to Professor Dunphy's remedial training classes.
At the very least, they represent examples of how not to write—though I would defy anyone to diagram some of these sentences!
Development was an evolution of existing technologies into being able to wind smaller windings resulting in smaller packages.
In addition to elimination of wiring, it's plug-in connectivity eases changes of electronic components.
Unlike the first attempt with aluminum rings, the plastic rings did grip the shaft well.
Because water-based fluids have smaller molecules than oil-based fluids, water leaks from places from which oil does not leak.
The primary lever with seat cycles open-and-closed for regulation the primary pressure.
I selected molding because I believe it will be easier since I have to only built small amount.
Have you seen some good examples of bad writing lately? Drop me a line, and I'll share them with our readers in an upcoming issue of the magazine.