A Few of My Thoughts on Why Writing In Engineering is Important

writing in engineering

Hello everyone! It’s Patric! And I’m ready to tell you about one thing that few people in STEM like to think about: writing in engineering. Yep, I’ve said it. When I only started studying at my college, I had this common, false belief that engineering didn’t require any significant writing skills. After all, it was all about the numbers, not the letters. I didn’t apply to my institution to be the next Jane Austen, right? If you have similar beliefs, I’m here to debunk them. Fortunately, you’ll have a better chance of liking writing after this text. Let’s go for it!

Sources of Misconceptions About Engineering Writing

So, what’s the reason for such false ideas when people start speaking about engineering writing? Well, the first thing we probably have to consider is the popular rivalry between science and humanities majors. It has come to such a level that it’s a popular source of memes, but many people think that having knowledge of one set of subjects allows them to entirely forget the others. I must admit that I, too, was a victim of such a myth. As a kid, I was more interested in science, which is why I had a friend with whom I would share my assignments at school. She offered to teach me about literature and history, while I helped her with math and physics. Now, I realize that the sharp distinction between the two is a harmful stereotype. 

In addition, teachers and professors often spread the same opinions because of their subjective perceptions. I was lucky enough to have professors who understood the value of writing in engineering, even though I wasn’t always ready to accept it. 

Still, many people believe that it’s something unnecessary and even funny. Many of my peers have stated that any writing course would simply be a distraction from “actual learning.” 

The last source of such misconceptions stems from the very flawed thinking that says writing is easy. Trust me, it is not. And I’m not even speaking about creating a poem or writing a compare and contrast essay or anything like that. No; I actually mean that technical writing guidelines are tough. Just because we are used to thinking that writing is simple doesn’t mean that it is. After all, it’s not just about putting letters and words in a specific order. You don’t consider mathematics to be about writing down numbers, do you? The same goes for writing. It requires a lot of skills we probably didn’t learn at school. 

Writing Makes Studying More Effective

Here are the ways in which you become a better learner even while studying engineering. 

  • You learn how to complete all types of assignments. I had to write several lab reports every semester, even during my first year of college. I used to ignore thinking that any professor’s remarks about my mistakes would not matter in the long term. I must admit that I plainly disregarded anything I saw as unimportant. That’s why I got lower grades; my mistakes were the same and I didn’t fix them. But writing can help you understand what is technical writing, why it is needed, and how to adjust your writing to every coursework you’ll have. 
  • You understand how to incorporate reliable support. Every good engineering report or analysis of a project requires adding lots of data. Sure, you know how well you did these calculations. But do you know what website or publication is good enough to be added to your paper? Trust me, when you ask a writer with some experience about something and ask them to provide reliable resources, they become positively terrifying! I once saw my date engage in a long discussion about deforestation using so many arguments with quotes and lists of recent data that I was deeply impressed. 
  • You develop critical thinking. I know, you probably think that critical thinking isn’t relevant to writing at all. That’s not true. When you write, you have to put words in a certain order, are exposed to your thoughts, and learn how to organize them. There’s a great deal of difference between a table or a model and an organized text. In my own experience, when I joined a creative writing class (and not even a technical one), I felt entirely different parts of my brain becoming engaged in the thinking process. It was a revelatory experience indeed.

engineering writing

Your Professional Growth Improves with Writing

You might not even know it, but almost every well-paying engineering field requires its professionals to adhere to the technical writing standards that exist in the sphere. If you are employed as an engineer, your daily tasks will include creating manuals, explaining your work in reports, reporting test outcomes, communicating ideas to stakeholders, and many more. And while some occasional mishaps can be forgiven, no one will wait for you to learn something that you could have learned in college years ago. 

Even more, if you are interested in any middle- or high-level position, you’ll need to communicate a lot with your colleagues. And that includes creating emails, writing memos, and doing all that stuff you’ve never done before. 

Oh, and did I mention that you’ll need to deliver all the findings from your research in a way that will be understandable to others? No, not everyone will get the numbers and graphics you present to them. And all that requires the possession of technical writing skills. 

Aside from that, you may eventually receive a leadership position. It will sound fascinating until you learn that you actually have to write. A lot. You need to write letters to your team, inspire them, and tell them about the important events in your company. And that’s even beside the basic need to know your grammar and syntax. When I applied for my current position as an assistant engineer, I had to complete a separate writing assignment to prove my abilities, and that was after I had sent my well-written resume. So, essentially, you will need to write, and do it well, if you want to receive promotions and be recognized for your engineering abilities. 

Learning New Writing Skills

Now that we’ve established how important writing is, here are some suggestions on where to begin. This is not a comprehensive list, but we hope that some of these ideas will help you find your own path to writing. 

  • Ask your professor. Your educator will definitely offer you some tips for technical writing, especially if you have some peers who have joined in on this request. Some universities have additional classes you can take that will tell you how to do all types of writing, including technical. 
  • Join an engineering writing course. I was lucky enough to have such a course at my university. If you’ve got one available, always sign up for it. It was a part of my semester, so I didn’t need to do additional work for it. If you don’t have such opportunities, look for such a course online. It probably won’t be too expensive, and you’ll have something interesting to do. 
  • Do a little bit of independent studying. You can purchase or find a technical writing guide or look through your college’s library. There’s also plenty of information on the Internet, but make sure you have access to a reliable source so that you can actually feel safe relying on such info.
  • Ask senior students for help. If you know some people with better writing skills, don’t even hesitate to reach out to them. A lot of them have old lectures and writings that they don’t need, so you’ll get a whole bunch of examples that you can use to compare with your own papers. 
  • Reach out to a friend. If you have a friend or several study buddies, ask them to read your engineering texts and provide healthy and constructive feedback. Also, ask them to do the same. The exchange of ideas, opinions, and skills is very important, and it’s beneficial to the entire class. 

Writing and Engineering Can Go Together

I don’t have any illusions about everyone starting to like writing after reading my short text. But I hope that at least some of you have become more comfortable with aligning engineering with writing. And if at least one person is intrigued after reading this and wants to try writing more, I’ll be sure that my efforts weren’t in vain. Start with small things. Get used to it. And then, after you want to write more, go for it!

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Patric Johnson
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Patric is a 4th year student and Assistant Engineer. Besides studying and working, he’s juggling the responsibilities of being a parent and a husband. But he always finds time for the games of his favorite baseball team, the Texas Longhorns.