13Communications in Engineering

Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else's head.

Malcolm Gladwell

13.1 Introduction

Industry has pushed hard for increased emphasis on written and oral communications in the engineering curriculum to better prepare graduates in this area because engineers are often accused of lacking these skills. Universities have responded to this concern by adding courses in engineering report writing and oral communications to the curriculum; they have also increased the writing and oral presentation requirements. In spite of all this effort to improve the communications capabilities of graduates, it has not changed the perception of engineers as ineffective communicators. This could be due to a lack of interest by students in English and language courses in secondary and tertiary education. Many, if not most, engineering students have a natural inclination for, and interest in, math and science and little of either for writing and oral communications. Without a serious interest in developing communication skills, it is doubtful that a student's capabilities in this area can be significantly improved.

A comment often heard that has some applicability here is that to be an effective writer, a person needs to be an avid reader. The US education system does not effectively motivate students ...

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