RE: teaching technical writing to engineers

Subject: RE: teaching technical writing to engineers
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 12:23:16 -0500

"Wright, Lynne" <lwright -at- positron911 -dot- com> wrote on 03/24/2004 11:47:36 AM:
> au contraire...
> Considering how many people get through the educational
> system without learning correct grammar, ...

*VERY* quick reviews are a good thing. But the basic grammar stuff should
not be a focus of the course. Remember that most engineering students have
as much regard for language studies as language studies students have for

Make the students buy a technical writing textbook. It will reference
style guides and grammar books. If the students need them, they'll go to
the library or maybe buy them. Put grammar or language reference books on
the bookshop required materials list and you'll have a hell of a time
getting past the prejudice that the class is going to be a waste of the
student's time.

As I said, correct the grammar, but don't focus teaching time on it.
Require a writing test or remedial writing classes as a prerequisite if
you're worried about the really bad writers. University students in
general, and engineering students in particular (IMO), know all about
cramming information and catching up to speed in courses. But, you first
have to grab their attention and put the curriculum somewhere important on
their priority list. At the first hint that the course is a language and
grammar class, most engineering students will give up on the class as the
one they can get by with a low mark. Been there, done that. With the
horrendous workload you're under, I found every semester one or two
classes were relegated to the "Don't care unless I'm currently in the
class" with the absolute minimum of effort expended for assignments. Heck,
I filed a couple of classes under "not worth attending" because I could
better spend my time on other assignments. (But I did quite well in those
classes none the less by submitting assignments and passing all exams.)

But don't take my word for it, I only did four years completely immersed
in undergrad engineering studies before graduating with my bachelor's
degree ...

Eric L. Dunn
Senior Technical Writer


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