You can be an excellent designer, inventor, engineer, or researcher but if you are the only one who knows it, you will not be successful.

            If you can’t effectively express your ideas and convey the technical content of your work, you may as well not have done that work. It is absolutely essential that you be able to clearly and effectively communicate technical information.

            All students must take writing courses as part of the English component of a technical degree. These courses generally cover use of vocabulary and grammar. They do not, however, deal with the aspects of communication unique to technical professionals. We simply don’t write the way others do. As one example, we try to avoid complex “flowery” words in favor of simplicity and clarity.

            The purpose of this text is to make you into a better technical communicator. Talk to anyone in industry, whether a recent graduate or a seasoned engineer, and you are sure to hear them say that effective writing and speaking are keys to success in the profession of engineering. The best idea or design is useless unless you can communicate the details to others.

            Chapter 1 of this book sets the stage by giving examples of the importance of writing and oral presentations in industry. Then in Chapters 2 and 3, we explore the various types of writing from proposals to reports and patents. We do this first from the student’s perspective and then from that of a technical professional. Chapter 4 looks at the essential tasks you must perform to begin any communication project, including assessing the needs and desires of the audience, and gathering information from a variety of sources including the Internet. Next, we devote an entire chapter to giving oral presentations. These are extremely important in industry, with most companies holding periodic (e.g., weekly) design reviews where you will have to present your progress. Chapter 6 is entitled “Rules and Tools”, and may well be considered as necessary medicine to support this entire process. Within this chapter, we review grammar and also the essential elements of word processors. The final two chapters address the specifics of formulating a written document such as drafting the document, editing, adding biographies and graphics, and avoiding plagiarism.


            The text contains many examples since we don’t want to overwhelm you with rules. Our experience has taught us that most technical students don’t look forward to taking a writing class. We don’t subscribe to this philosophy at all, and believe that becoming an effective communicator can be satisfying and even a bit of fun.

            The internet contains many excellent sources of information related to technical communication. The list of such sources is continually changing. Therefore, rather than include these in an extensive list of references, we have chosen to make the list available on the publisher’s website. Go to and click on BOOKS and then click on this text. You will find a variety of resources and links to useful websites. You will also find postings of examples relating to many of the topics in this book.

            If you take this seriously and carefully read and absorb this material, we assure you that you will become a more effective communicator. Communication skills usually do not come naturally. You have to work at it.


Teressa Murphy

Martin S. Roden