The Communication Skills: All Engineers Need To Know

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When discussing Engineering good Communication Skills, we go back to the curriculum for your chosen engineering discipline, you will find many “hard” courses (mathematics, science, and engineering) with just a smattering of “soft” courses (English, history, and other humanities).

The challenging courses emphasize compu­tations, whereas the soft courses emphasize communication, primarily written. Given that the engineering curriculum overwhelmingly emphasizes challenging courses, a student might logically conclude that communications are not important in engineering.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The emphasis on hard courses merely reflects the necessary trade-offs that faculty must make when designing a curriculum to fit within Severe time constraints. In fact, writing and oral communications are an inte­gral part of a practicing engineer’s job; some engineers report that they spend 80% of their time in these activities.

Likely, these soft skills will affect the promotions of an engineer more than the hard skills, particularly if the ultimate objective is to become a manager.

A recent survey of corporations posed the following question: “What skills are lacking in recent engineering graduates?” The number one response was that engineers lack communication skills. Because corporations are collections of individuals working toward a common goal, good communication skills are essential and highly prized.

Engineers communicate both orally and in writing. Engineers use words and graphics to present their ideas regardless of which method. Until now, most of your education has focused on communication via comments.

As a budding engineer, you also must learn to communicate graphically. Many engineering ideas are simply too com­plex to be described in words and can be communicated only through drawings. (Undoubtedly, you have heard the expression. One picture is worth a thousand words). Engineering graphics is a huge topic well beyond the scope of this post.

There are many fine engineering graphics texts available; we trust that you will have the opportunity to study one.

In school, your goal should be to develop a set of skills that will enable you to become a successful practicing engineer. Honing your communication skills is essential to reach­ing that goal. Take every essay, report, and oral presentation seriously. This post will help you get started.

Also Read: Construction Terminologies You Should Know

Communication Skills: Preparation

Whether writing or giving an oral presentation, you must prepare by using the following three steps: topic selection, research, and organization.

  • Topic Selection

Your topic may be given, or you may be able to select it. If you are selecting your own topic, you may wish to choose something you are already familiar with or perhaps some­thing you wish to know more about.

  • Research

There are many sources for obtaining information, as described below:

  1. Technical journals are generally devoted to a single topic (e.g.. heat transfer). Authors submit their papers to journal editors who then have the papers reviewed by experts in the field. This peer review process can take a year or longer, so the results reported in technical journals are often a few years old; however, they tend to be high quality because of the review process. Technical journals are the primary means by which new information is introduced into the engineering community.
  2. Books are written by authors who are familiar with a field and wish to describe it in a consistent, coherent manner. The primary source of their information is the knowledge that was first reported in technical journals, so the information in books tends to be even older than that in technical journals. The great advantage of a book is that the informa­tion is in a single source rather than in multiple articles spread over many years in a plethora of journals.
  3. conference proceedings are a collection of papers written by authors who speak at a meeting devoted to a particular topic. Sometimes the proceedings are made available at the meeting, so the information can be extremely recent—literally, data taken a few days or weeks prior to the meeting. However, in this case, the information has not been peer-reviewed, so some of the information may be of lesser quality. To overcome this problem. some conferences peer review the proceedings, but this takes time and delays the publication of the information.
  4. Encyclopedia articles are very short descriptions of a particular topic. They are peer-reviewed, so the information is of high quality. Like books, the information in an ency­clopedia is at least a few years old.
  5. Government reports are collections of research data taken by government-sponsored researchers. The reports are required by the funding agency and are maintained at the agency. In some cases, the reports are copied onto microfilm by the National Technical Information Service, so they are more widely available. The final reports are written imme­diately after each project is completed, so the information is very recent; however, it usu­ally is not peer-reviewed. Generally, if the information is important to a wide audience, it will be translated into a journal article which will be subjected to peer review.
  6. Patents describe technology that is novel, useful, and nonobvious. To be valid, a patent must fully disclose the technology so that a person “skilled in the art”- can translate the patent into a working device or process. A patent protects the intellectual property of the inventor for a fixed time period, typically 20 years from the time the patent was filed.
  7. Popular press articles appear in widely circulated magazines and newspapers. Usually, they are written by people with a journalism degree who have little technical back­ground. Further, the information often must be printed quickly to meet a publication deadline, so the information may not be scrutinized. As a consequence, popular press articles dealing with technical subjects often report erroneous information. However, such articles may be useful for getting to the human side of a technical issue and may indicate how the lay public or politicians feel about controversial technical topics, such as nuclear energy, landfills, or dams. Also, they may indicate how a technical issue affects certain people, groups, or institutions.
  8. Course notes can be a good source of information: however, the information is not peer-reviewed.
  9. Internet sites can be established by anyone with a computer and enough money to pay monthly connection fees. The Internet is an extremely democratic means for dissemi­nating information. Because it lacks the scrutiny of peer review, however, erroneous information or extreme viewpoints can easily make their way into the information mar­ketplace. Further, information on the Internet is extremely volatile and is available only as long as the computer and its connection are maintained.

Finding information is a technical skill: in fact, libraries have experts trained to find information in their vast archives. When doing your research, freely consult these experts. But be aware that they are not experts in your field, so there are benefits to becoming more self-sufficient. The following resources will help you find information:

  1. Abstracts are brief, one-paragraph descriptions of the contents of a journal or popular press article. The abstracts are accessible through keywords or author names. There are abstracts for chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, and popular press articles (Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature). Abstracts are now accessible through com­puter searches using either CD-ROMs or the Internet.
  2. Citations or references are listed at the end of a publication, detailing where the infor­mation was obtained. Suppose you are a civil engineer interested in improving asphalt roads and you find a particularly good paper on asphalt chemistry by Charles Glover published in 1995. Glover’s citations are an excellent way to connect to other related literature before 1995.
  3. Citations indices list authors and publications that have cited them. For example, knowing that Charles Glover wrote an excellent asphalt article in 1995, you can look up his name in the citations index. If another author cited his work in 1998, it is likely that this author also is writing about asphalt chemistry, so you may be interested in obtaining her paper as well. Using the citations index, it is possible to find related articles after 1995.
  4. Library catalogs list the holdings of the library, often by subject and author, so this is a rapid way to find relevant literature in your library.
  • Organization

When organizing your presentation or writing, the most important rule to follow is Know your audience.

Again, imagine you are a civil engineer who seeks to improve our highways. If you were invited to an elementary school to speak to eight-year-olds about your work, you would certainly give a different talk than if you were invited to speak at a technical symposium on our highway infrastructure.

Good Communication Skills

Once you know your audience, the next step is to determine the most important points you wish to make. Whether writing or speaking, it is usually impossible to communicate everything you know about a subject because of space or time constraints. Instead, you must carefully choose the key points and determine the most logical sequence for the ideas to flow together smoothly. An outline is very helpful for achieving this goal.

When structuring your writing or speech. you may want to employ the following strategies:

  1. A chronological strategy gives a historical account of the topic. Again, imagine you are a civil engineer, you could present a history of roads by sequentially describ­ing simple dirt paths, gravel roads, cobblestone streets, asphalt roads, and concrete multilane highways.
  2. A spatial strategy describes the component parts of an object. In the case of a road, you could describe its various features (gravel substructure, asphalt surface, drainage system).
  3. A debate strategy would describe the pros and cons of a particular approach. For example. you could describe the advantages and disadvantages of asphalt and concrete roads, with the goal of choosing which is best for a given situation.
  4. A general-to-specific strategy presents general information first and then gives increasingly detailed information and specific examples. For example, as a civil engi­neer describing methods for connecting one road with another, you could first describe general considerations (e.g., number of lanes, vehicle speed. amount of traf­fic) and then describe specific types of connections (four-way stop signs, traffic cir­cles, stoplights, highway cloverleaves, etc.). In some cases, a specific-to-general strat­egy is a more effective way to communicate.
  5. A problem-to-solution strategy is very effective for communicating with engineers because they are trained, problem solvers. For example, a road for which you are responsible may have too many potholes. In a presentation to your boss, you could first describe this problem and then offer a variety of solutions (use high-grade asphalt, deepen the roadbed, improve the drainage system, ban heavy trucks).
  6. A motivational strategy is often employed by sales engineers. For example, imagine you sell high-quality asphalt that will improve road life. Your presentation could have the following components:
  • You could get your client’s attention by showing a picture of a pothole swallowing an automobile.
  • You could create a need for your product by showing how much money your client spends fixing potholes.
  • You could satisfy their need by showing how your product reduces the formation of potholes.
  • You could help them visualize a better, pothole-free world.
  • You could get them to act by signing a purchase contract for your asphalt product.

No matter which strategy you employ, you should have an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Communication Skills: Oral Presentations

When you become an engineer, you will give oral presentations in a variety of situations—you might need to make proposals to prospective clients, explain why your company should be allowed to build a new facility in a community, explain the results of a recent analysis to your boss, or present research results at a conference.

Mastering oral presenta­tions will increase your chances of being promoted to high-visibility positions within your company.

  • Introduction

During the introduction of your oral presentation, your goal is to win your audience over. If you cannot win them over within the first few minutes, you never will. Jokes are a clas­sic way to win the audience; if you are skilled at telling jokes, use them.

However, if you are unskilled, win your audience in other ways; there is no quicker way to lose them than by telling a joke badly. Instead, you may win your audience by using anecdotes, particu­larly if they are personal.

During the introduction, you must connect the audience with your world. They may not have thought about your topic before, so you must grab their attention. Find an aspect of your topic that everyone can relate to. For example, everyone can relate to potholes, so this is a good way to introduce the topic of high-quality asphalt.

Commonly, the first slide of an oral presentation is the title. There is nothing wrong with this approach: however, it may not help win your audience. There is little you can do with a title but read it to the audience, which insults their intelligence.

Further, many engi­neering presentations have titles with technical phrases that are unintelligible to most members of the audience. A more effective opening is to find an aspect of your topic that everyone can relate to so you win your audience immediately.

Then, present them with enough information that they can understand every word in the title slide. Using this approach, the title slide may appear a few minutes into the presentation.

This may seem awkward—but how many television shows start with the title? It is much more common to start with an opening skit that grabs the audience’s attention and dissuades them from changing channels. After the skit, they show the title.

This approach is very successful in television, and it can work effectively for you, too.

Often, a speaker includes an outline of the talk immediately following the title slide. Technically, this is not wrong: however, again it does little to win your audience.

It is dif­ficult to make an outline interesting, particularly if it contains technical words that few audience members understand. Instead, use “chapter” designators, which we describe next.

  • Body

The body is the heart of the presentation where you will spend the majority of your time. About 80% of the presentation is the body, with about 15% devoted to the introduction and about 5% devoted to the conclusion.

In the body. use “chapter” designators to let the audience know when you have changed topics. Suppose you were dividing your talk on road construction into the fol­lowing topics: surveying, grading, roadbed preparation, and surfacing.

Rather than listing these topics at the beginning of the presentation. it is more effective to have a chapter des­ignator with the single word “Surveying-“ in large letters. This lets the audience know that the next few slides relate to this topic.

Then, have a chapter designator with the word “Grading” in large letters to let the audience know that you have switched topics. In this way, you can step through the various topics in your presentation.

An alternative approach is to indicate all the topics in a list, but highlight the particular topic being considered during the particular chapter; thus, the same list appears multiple times throughout your presenta­tion, but each topic in the list is highlighted only once.

If you organize your presentation according to a spatial strategy, a very effective chapter designator is a graphic image of the object being described.

Each chapter in the presentation would begin with a portion of the graphic image highlighted. For example, you could show a cutaway view of a road indi­cating the soil, gravel bed, and asphalt surface.

Also Read: Tendering Process: Advantages and Types, All You Need to Know 

  • Conclusion

In the conclusion, you wrap up your presentation and summarize your key points. When preparing your conclusion, think hard about what you want to be the take-home message; that is, if the audience remembers only one or two things from your presentation, what do you want those to be?

  • Speech Anxiety

In 1974, The Bruskin Report revealed that some adults are more fearful of public speak­ing than financial problems, loneliness, and even death.

Why would people rather die than give a speech? Most likely, the reason is that at least once in our lives, each of us has been embarrassed in front of a group.

The experience may have been so humiliating that the body does not want to repeat it. Uncontrollable physiological responses to speech anxiety include sweating. shakiness, stomach distress, and an increased heart and breathing rate.

How should you respond to speech anxiety? Well, you could surrender yourself to it and become a basket case every time you must speak publicly, or you could refuse to give public speeches.

Neither of these is a viable option for an aspiring engineer such as your­self: your job will require you to give oral presentations. You might try to ignore the phys­iological symptoms. but sometimes they are simply too powerful to ignore.

Instead, you should learn to harness the energy that comes from speech anxiety and direct it into your presentation.

There are a number of tricks you can use to overcome speech anxiety:

  1. The most powerful trick is to be well-prepared: those who are ill-prepared have good reason to be nervous.
  2. The first few minutes of a presentation are the most important. Recall that this is the critical time when you are trying to win the audience. It is also the time you will be most nervous. as the transition from being an anonymous audience member to becoming the center of attention puts a strain on your body. The best way to survive this initial period is to memorize the first few sentences so you can deliver them in “auto-pilot” mode. Also, take a deep breath before you utter your first words to calm your nerves.
  3. If you were to meet each audience member individually, you could become friends, so think of them collectively as your friends. You can reinforce this notion by picking out a few friendly faces in various parts of the room and speaking to them. Don’t look at the people who are obviously bored or disinterested: they will suck the energy out of you.
  4. Allow yourself to make mistakes. We all trip over words or drop things. Most people in the audience will filter out your mistakes and not even notice them; however, they will notice if you respond to your mistake by becoming agitated or confused.
  5. The physiological manifestations of speech anxiety are based upon the “fight-or­-flight” response. When your body is in a stressful situation, it is poised to do battle or flee. Adrenaline flushes through the body, putting the nerves on edge and tight­ening the muscles. You can counteract these effects with endorphins that are released with intense physical exercise, such as running. By exercising one or two hours before your presentation, you will find yourself to be less nervous, which will help your presentation go well. After having many positive public speaking experiences, you will find that you get less speech anxiety each time. and the need for endorphins will eventually subside.

Also Read: The Contractor | Types, Responsibilities, and Conditions You Need To Know

  • Style

According to the Mehrabian Study, only 7% of what you communicate is verbal. The remainder is nonverbal communication, such as body language (55%) and voice strain (38%).

Thus, you can be well-prepared and still give a hard presentation if your nonverbal communication is poor. Some tips on nonverbal communication follow.

  1. Look the audience members in the eye. It is said that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. If you will not look audience members in the eye, you will be perceived as being either a liar or a coward, neither of which is desirable. If you are nervous, you can look at their foreheads: they will never know the difference.
  2. As you speak, scan the audience so you are not talking to a lone friendly face. You want everyone to be involved with your presentation.
  3. Speak forcefully and confidently. Use your singing voice, which is supported by the diaphragm. Do not speak from the throat: doing so will make you hoarse. if you speak softly. the audience may not hear you, and may even see you as insecure.
  4. Use a pointer to direct the audience’s attention to a particular part of your visual aid. If you want the audience to stop looking at the visual aid and direct their attention to you, step away from the visual aid.
  5. Do not stand where you block the view of the visual aids. If you use transparency, do not point directly to the transparency, as this usually blocks somebody’s view. Instead, point directly to the screen.
  6. Avoid distracting habits such as jiggling change in your pocket. Do not overuse dis­tracting phrases, such as “you know” or “ummm”.
  7. Watch your body language. Do not be stiff, meaning you are scared, or overly relaxed, meaning you do not care. To show respect for the audience, wear nice clothing and be well groomed.
  8. Be enthusiastic. If you do not care about your presentation, why should the audience?

Also Read: Process of Manufacture of Cement

Communication Skills: Writing

Engineers employ technical writing, which is very different from the literary writing you learn in most English classes. Consider this passage:

Helen, thy beauty is to me

Like those Nicean harks of yore

That gently. o’er a perfumed sea.

The weary way-worn wanderer bore

To his own native shore.

Edgar Allan Poe

To express these ideas in technical writing, we would simply say He thinks Helen is beautiful.

Although this technical writing does not elicit the emotions of Poe’s passage, that is not the goal. Instead, the goals are that technical writing be:

  1. Accurate. In engineering, it is essential that the information be correct.
  2. Brief. Readers of technical writing are busy and do not have time to sift through a lot of words.
  3. Clear. Be sure that your technical writing can be interpreted only one way.
  4. Easy to understand. Your goal is to express, not impress.
  • Organization

In engineering, the typical types of written communications are business letters (which are sent outside the organization), memoranda (which are sent inside the organization), pro­posals (which are solicitations for funding), technical reports (which are used internally), and technical papers (which are published in the open literature).

  • Structural Aids

In your written communication, be sure to employ headings and subheadings; these break the document into digestible chunks and let the reader know when you have changed topics.

Paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence to inform the reader what the paragraph is about. In general, paragraphs should contain more than one sen­tence, unless it is presenting a particularly emphatic idea.

When connecting ideas in a paragraph, be sure to use transition words, such as but, however, in addition, and so forth.

  • Becoming a Good Writer

Everyone has problems with writing; the problems differ only by degree. Unlike some engineering problems that you can solve by applying an algorithm that results in the cor­rect answer every time, there is no such algorithm that guarantees good writing.

Instead, you learn to write by trial and error and by reading examples of good writing. Learning to write properly requires a lifelong commitment. Slowly, over time and with practice, this skill sinks in.

Good writing requires editing; rarely does a well-written document emerge extempo­raneously. The author actually must wear two hats; those of the writer and the reader.

After writing a passage, you must clear your mind and read it from the viewpoint of your read­ers, considering their backgrounds, and biases. and knowledge. (Remember: Know your audi­ence.) Can you understand what was written from the reader’s viewpoint?

This is not easy to do; after all, you just wrote it, and you know what you were trying to communicate. If you have the luxury of time, put the writing away for a while so you can forget what you were trying to say, and later see what you actually wrote. Alternatively, you can have some­one else read your work.

Unlike natural laws, which are valid for all times and all locations, language “laws” constantly evolve. Although some grammatical rules are fairly fixed (e.g., end a sentence with a period), other rules change with time or location (e.g., “color” in the United States, “color” in Britain).

The French language has L’Academie Francaise to define proper French, but no such governing body exists for the English language. This lack is both a blessing and a curse.

English freely borrows words from all over the world allowing for many subtle shades of meaning, but then we are stuck with inconsistent spelling. Without a governing authority, English is a matter of convention.

Some of the conventions are arbitrary—and some are absurd—but many allow the brain to process words rapidly and unambiguously into understanding.

To impose some order on the chaotic English language, many organizations employ a style manual. Here, we describe some of the most common conventions; however, you will certainly find exceptions as you go out into the world.

  • Building Better Sentences

As you construct sentences, consider the following issues:

1. Use parallel construction. When comparing related ideas, use similar sentence construction.

Incorrect: Scientists acquire knowledge and engineers are concerned with applying knowledge.

Correct: Scientists are concerned with acquiring knowledge, whereas engineers are concerned with applying knowledge.

Also, employ parallel construction with lists.

Incorrect: Civil engineers build roads, building construction, and waterworks planning.

Correct: Civil engineers build roads, construct buildings, and plan waterworks.

2. Avoid sentence fragments. Use complete sentences in your writing.

Incorrect: Joining a professional society, is important to furthering your career.

Correct: Joining a professional society is important to furthering your career.

3. Use clear pronoun references. Be sure that the noun referenced by the pronoun is clean

Incorrect: Procedure A is used for a high-concentration sample. This results from the benefits of advanced technology.

Correct: Procedure A is used for a high-concentration sample. This procedure results from the benefits of advanced technology.

Correct: Procedure A is used for a high-concentration sample. This sample results from the benefits of advanced technology.

4. Avoid long sentences. Break overly long sentences into multiple short sentences.

Incorrect: The procedure for operating the chemical reactor starts by first opening Valve A by turning the handle counterclockwise when viewed from the top, then turning on Pump A and waiting 15 min while simultaneously watching the temperature gauge to ensure that the reactor does not over­heat, in which case, open Valve B, which introduces cooling water to cool the reactor.

Correct: The procedure for operating the chemical reactor follows First, open Valve A by turning the handle counterclockwise when viewed from the top. Then, turn on Pump A and wait 15 min while simultaneously watch­ing the temperature gauge. If the reactor overheats, open Valve B, which introduces cooling water to cool the reactor.

5. Avoid short sentences. Combine overly short sentences into longer sentences that flow more fluidly.

Incorrect: The procedure for operating the chemical reactor follows First, open Valve A. Open Valve A by turning the handle counterclockwise. The proper viewing position is from the top. Then, turn on Pump A. Wait 15 min. Simultaneously. watch the temperature gauge. If the reactor over­heats, open Valve B. Opening Valve B introduces cooling water. Cooling water cools the reactor.

Correct: (See the previous item.)

(Note: Occasionally using short sentences can make writing more interesting and varied.)

6. Use active voice. Active sentences require fewer words and are more interesting to read.

Incorrect: Temperature is dependent upon the heat input.

Correct: Temperature depends on the heat input.

7. Avoid vague words. Use precise words to replace general words.

Incorrect: The sensor read 150’F.

Correct: The thermometer read 150°F.

Incorrect: The community suffered through a period of economic troubles. Correct For five years, the community had over 10% unemployment.

8. Reduce prepositions. Overusing prepositions (of, in, by, on, out, to, under, etc.) makes understanding difficult.

Incorrect: The establishment of a panel of experts in safety was needed for the investi­gation of accidents by miners in Pennsylvania.

Correct: A panel of safety experts was established to investigate accidents by Pennsylvania miners.

9. Eliminate redundancies. Excess words take time to process and may lead to confusion.

Incorrect: The pH value was 7.2.

Correct: The pH was 7.2.

10. Avoid informal language. Using informal language is analogous to wearing jeans and a T-shirt while giving an important sales presentation.

Incorrect: We plugged numbers into the equation.

Correct: We substituted numbers into the equation.

Incorrect: The shaft can’t rotate. (Contractions are considered casual language.)

Correct: The shaft cannot rotate.

11. Avoid sexist language. In the past, if the sex of a person was indeterminate, the default sex was “he.” In modern usage, “he or she” can be used, although this can lead to clunky sentences. An alternative approach is to mix “he” and “she” throughout your writing, or you can use plurals by saying “they“.

12. Avoid dangling modifiers. Dangling modifiers are words or phrases that describe something that has been left out of the sentence.

Incorrect: Determining the experiment to be a failure, the entire project was canceled.

Correct: Determining the experiment to be a failure, the project manager canceled the project.

Correct: Because the experiment was a failure, the entire project was canceled.

13. Avoid split infinitives. Infinitives are verbs preceded by the word to. In many places, it is best to keep these two words together.

Undesirable: Eddie decided to quickly drive down the road.

Preferred: Eddie decided to drive quickly down the road.

However, to provide emphasis, an infinitive may be split.

Example: To pass the course, Edna needs to study the class notes thoroughly.

Increasingly, split infinitives are accepted unless they are awkward or ambiguous, so this is an example of a grammatical rule that is changing.

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  • Punctuation

Although punctuation may seem insignificant, improper punctuation can lead to gross misunderstandings.

1. Hyphens. Use hyphens to avoid ambiguity.

Incorrect: The specifications call for eight-foot-long pipes.

Correct: The specifications call for eight-foot-long pipes.

Correct: The specifications call for eight-foot-long pipes.

Use a hyphen when spelling out fractions or numbers less than 100.

Examples: two-thirds


A hyphen can be used to combine nouns of equal things.

Example: Because he does both fundamental and applied work, John is a scientist-engineer.

Use a hyphen to create compound units.

Example: The accident rate is reported per person-mile.

Use a hyphen to create compound adjectives.

Examples: We need a face-to-face meeting to resolve this dispute.

The process requires a high-pressure pipe.

Use a 5-in-diameter pipe.

Incorrect: The pipe diameter is 5-in.

Correct: The pipe diameter is 5 in.

Example: This car can be powered by a six- or eight-cylinder engine.

Do not use a hyphen with adverbs ending in “ly.”

Incorrect: This is a highly-explosive process.

Correct: This is a highly explosive process.

2. Colons. Use colons to introduce a list.

Example: The following skills are used by engineers: analysis. creativity. and communication.

Colons can be used to introduce equations, provided a complete sentence precedes the colon.

Example: The following equation results from Newton’s second law:

F = ma


F = force

m = mass

a = acceleration

Note that a colon does not appear after the word where. Similarly, do not put a colon after the following words: when, if, therefore, is, by, are, such as, especially, and including.

3. Commas. Use commas to separate items in a list of three or more items.

Example: The primary tools of an engineer are a pencil, a calculator, and a computer.

Use commas to separate nonessential or nonrestrictive clauses, that is, clauses that are parenthetical or that could be deleted without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Example: The shaft seal, which is supposed to work at high speeds. failed.

Use commas to separate long independent clauses joined by and, or but, or nor.

Example: In the United States we use an English measurement system, but slowly we are adopting the SI system.

Use commas to set off introductory clauses.

Example: Before turning on the amplifier. be sure it is grounded.

Use commas to separate multiple adjectives that could be joined by and.

Example: The automobile has shiny, red paint.

4. Parentheses. Use to set off parenthetical lists, clarifications, acronyms, abbreviations, or asides.

Example: Ellen’s technical courses (heat transfer, fluids. and thermodynamics) are canceled.

Example: Mike suggested that we use a high-pressure (schedule 80, not schedule 40) Pipe.

Example: Units of measure are regulated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

(Note: Always spell out an abbreviation upon first use.)

Example: The primary salt in seawater is sodium chloride (NaCl).

Example The boss announced that because of his fine work, Fred will be promoted (although everyone knows it’s because he married the boss’s daughter).

5. Semicolon. Do not use a comma to separate two phrases that could stand alone as independent sentences; instead, use a semicolon.

Incorrect: The engineering student worked hard in school, therefore he landed a good job.

Correct: The engineering student worked hard in school; therefore, he landed a good job.

Use a semicolon to separate phrases that have commas.

Example: The following individuals attended the meeting: Martin Fields, vice pres­ident, Ford Motor Company; Alfred Reno, chief executive officer, General Motors; and Jennifer Anderson, president, Chrysler.

6. Quotation marks. Use to identify quotations.

          Example:  The astronaut’s exact words were, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Also, quotation marks identify a word or phrase that is used in an unconventional way.

            Incorrect: With this word processor. press enter to start a new line.

            Correct With this word processor, press “enter” to start a new line.

In proper American usage, a comma or period appears inside the quotation.

            Incorrect: To use this computer program, memorize the following commands: “start”, “stop”, and “help”.

            Correct: To use this computer program, memorize the following commands: “start,” “stop,” and “help.”

What idiot made this rule?


Mastering engineering communication Skills is essential. Not only will it help your career, but it could also avert disaster. Imagine the possible consequences of a poorly written operat­ing manual for a nuclear power plant.

Before you start writing or preparing your speech. you must select a topic, conduct research, and organize your thoughts. When organizing, remember that the overwhelm­ing consideration is, “Know your audience.” Regardless of whether you are communicat­ing orally or in writing, the communication will have an introduction, a body, and a con­clusion.

For a speech, you must provide visual aids to help convey your ideas. The key is for the visual aids to communicate rapidly so the audience can focus on what you are saying; they cannot decipher a complex slide and listen to you talk at the same time.

Because graphical images are more rapidly processed by the audience, convey your thoughts graph­ically. if possible, rather than with written text. In oral presentations, words convey only a small part of your message: body language and voice strain convey the majority of the information.

In technical writing, the goals are accuracy, brevity, Clarity, and ease of under­standing. With these goals, you are fortunate to be able to communicate in English. The English language has more words than any other language in the world, allowing those who master it to convey subtle shades of meaning.

As with any language, there are numerous rules and conventions that mark good writing. Those who ignore these rules send out the message that they are sloppy thinkers. If an engineering report is written poorly, the reader could logically conclude that an author who cannot master the rules of English probably cannot master technology either, a conclusion that invalidates the whole report.

We hope this article helped you learn about Communication Skills: All Engineers Need To Know. You may also want to learn about Cladding: Types and ConsiderationsTop Cement Companies in IndiaThe Best Engineering Universities in the World, and Best Engineering Universities in the USA.

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