Posted in General Notes

You can write … whether you like it or not

Original title: Engineers can write; consulting engineers must write.

“Engineers can’t write.”

Explanation for the bad rap:

  • Might be true, in a way. Issue of writing in the right way for your audience. Engineers are used to writing for other engineers, but you can learn to write for people outside your specialty.
  • Could be a gentle compliment: say it to make me, the writer, feel needed.
  • Gender difference: men are good at math, women are good verbally. I don’t buy that, but we could argue the point in a friendly way for a long time.

Three B words to frame your writing efforts, where different types of writing contribute to each other:

Bloviate it – Give talks.

President Harding defined bloviation as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing.”

The professional groups you participate in will appreciate it.

Blog it – Write articles.

Write short articles about subjects you know, send links to anyone interested.

WordPress is the best tool for publishing articles.

Book it – Write a monograph. The hardest work, and takes the most time, but worth it.

Compare book publishing to music publishing, and traditional publication to self publication or print on demand.

I used CreateSpace to publish RTFM at Amazon.

To conclude, consider Craig’s remark or recommendation when we had lunch: after you finish a project, what would you do differently?

Steve: “I don’t really ask a question like that when I finish a project.”

Craig: “Well then you don’t think like an engineer.”

That made me think about differences between writing projects and engineering projects:

Writing projects are like making a piece of furniture: sand some more here, add some more finish there. Polish it until you are happy with it. Little in a piece of written work is unchangeable – you can even change decisions you made early in the project. Not so with a printed circuit board!

Drawing at the end of the talk: RTFM: Practical Advice for Smart Writers.


Steven Greffenius, technical writer and editor, is principal at Puzzle Mountain Digital.

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Author:

Grew up in the Upper Midwest, now live in greater Boston. Taught politics in a previous life, now work as a technical writer and illustrator. Other interests: athletics, flying, outdoor activities, writing about politics.

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