A practical resource to help engineers communicate effectively: a review of the IEEE’s online resources

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Anthony Haynes

Anthony Haynes writes: A major aim of this blog is to discover helpful resources and bring them to attention of engineers.

A fine example of such a resource is that published by the Professional Communication Society (PCS) on the IEEE website.

The resource is wide-ranging, covering such topics as style, grammar, visual communication, presentations, and reports.

I particularly welcome the following aspects of the resource:

  1. It includes a whole section on the communication process. Often resources limit themselves to the ‘what’ of communication (such as language and style) without providing a focus on the ‘how’. The PCS resource attends to both.
  2. It includes guidance on how to analyse your audience and incorporate that thinking into the communication process. Often resources focus exclusively on the role of the producer (i.e., the writer or speaker) without attending to the significance of the consumer (the listener or reader).
  3. The resource is up to date. As well as providing guidance on traditional forms of engineering communication, such as reports and presentations, it covers more modern forms, such as email and podcasts.
  4. It provides explicit guidance on how to develop a plain style. Most engineers recognise that they should use plain language in their communications — but do not always find this easy to do. In my work with engineering corporations I encounter the problem that the people (especially high schools teachers) who taught the employees have a lasting effect. I say ‘problem’ because such educators often discouraged plain style, with the result that, even decades later, people feel guilty or inadequate for relying on plain language.

One of the best features of the resource is that it practises what it preaches: as well as advocating plain language, it employs it. As a result, I’ve found reading the resource to be an effortless activity.

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