Some grammar and usage rules are strict and never change, no matter the context: “it’s” will always be a contraction meaning “it is”; “its” will always be a possessive of the pronoun “it.”
Other rules are flexible; their application can depend on the style guide your employer or engineering field dictate. Some style guides specify the use of serial commas, which require a comma between every item in a list: apples, oranges, and grapes. Other style guides require eliminating the comma before the last item in a list: apples, oranges and grapes.
Different engineering disciplines use different style guides. In addition, your employer may have a specific, in-house style guide. Find out what style guide you should use, then investigate its recommendations for the common grammar errors covered here, as well as any additional errors you commonly make.
Some common style guides for engineers include, but are not limited to :
- IEEE Style Guide (pdf)
- Chicago Manual of Style
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
The IEEE Professional Communication Society’s site provides a basic overview of common grammar topics, but there are many other resources available to learn about a broader set of grammar topics.
Use these online guides to learn about all things grammar.
- Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips
- The Grammar Gang
- Complete grammar guide
- Grammarly Handbook
- Verb tense chart: Consult this resource to learn about correct verb tense use.
- Irregular verb dictionary: Use this list to discover tenses for irregular verbs, a common source for grammar mistakes.
- Online guide to parts of speech: Find out what the parts of speech are called and how to use them properly.
- Comma splice quickie (video): Watch this quick YouTube video on avoiding comma splices.
- Subject-verb agreement (video): Watch this 10-minute video on how to unite the tense of your sentence’s subject and verb.
The best practice you’ll get will be writing on a daily basis in the workplace, but there are multiple online exercises to practice using proper grammar on those slow writing days.
- Grammar quizzes: Use these exercises from Paul Anderson’s Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach, to practice using proper grammar.
- Writing exercises for engineers and scientists:
Use this resource, developed especially for engineers and scientists, to practice using proper grammar.
1 D.A. Driscoll and A. Brizee. (2012, June 4). Complete discipline listing, Purdue Online Writing Lab. [Online]. Available: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/585/02