Will Communicate For Food

In a recent article in the New York Times, Alina Tugend posed the eternal question that often crops up at this time of year--what are the skills college graduates should possess to make them employable?  You may be surprised that the answer is not more technical skills.  Quoting from a special report by the Chronicle of Higher Education and … [Read more...]

Meet Your New Communication Strategist–Jane Austen

When one is in the market for help in improving communication skills, most of us take the same first step:  a Google search.  This search will turn up some sound, albeit conventional, advice.  Let me suggest instead that you explore a rather unconventional source and take your lessons from the drawing rooms of 19th century England.  Associate … [Read more...]

Please excuse my poor netiquette

In a meeting today, several faculty complained that students were spending time in class on their smartphones doing things unrelated to course activities--updating Facebook, sending texts, replying to unimportant email.  My question was, why do you allow them to use their devices in class?  Time in class is precious, and my solution to student … [Read more...]

“If I were a rich man,” and other musings on the subjunctive

There are two rules of grammar that I won't ever give up.  The first is the use of a singular pronoun as an antecedent to a singular noun. For instance, The student handed in their paper late.  The singular subject should have a singular pronoun, either he or she, but time and time again I see written prose using the plural in some vain attempt … [Read more...]

The Golden Rule of Clarity

I often hear engineers complain about the lack of clarity in the writing they read. Sometimes this complaint is phrased in terms like "this report doesn't flow," or "I can't understand what the point of this memo is."  Teaching engineering students to write clearly is my job, of course, and teaching clarity is one of my three favorite lessons to … [Read more...]

What Do Your Grammar Errors Say About You?

Kyle Wiens, writing in the Harvard Business Review, has offered important observations about what your errors in writing may say to a prospective employer.  In a blog post entitled "I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar.  Here's Why," Wiens explains that when he reads an applicant's resume or job letter and sees grammar, spelling, punctuation, … [Read more...]

Oh Wow!

Check out the latest Prism magazine, published by the American Society for Engineering Education, to read more about how engineering educators are helping students improve their written and oral communication skills. Thomas K. Grose, in an article entitled "Wow The Audience," reviews efforts at North Carolina State University, Texas Tech, … [Read more...]

Using Social Media for Job Searching

As part of my Professional and Technical Communication course at Rose-Hulman, I ask students to revise their current resume and job application letter to target a particular job and company.  For many students, the notion of customizing the standard one-page resume, letting it reflect the company culture and its values (information available on the … [Read more...]

Unleash Your Inner Asimov

I was very pleased to read G. Pascal Zachary's Opinion piece in the November 2012 issue of the IEEE Spectrum magazine.  Yes, fiction has an important role to play in inspiring creativity among the engineering set.  In fact, according to Zachary, science fiction has influenced a host of innovative devices; Werner von Braun, the pioneer of rocketry, … [Read more...]

Let’s Engineer Communication!

On Monday, November 26th, we started a new academic term here at Rose-Hulman, my home institution. That means I met with students in the two sections of the Technical and Professional Communication course that I will teach this quarter.  When I introduce the course, I like to tell students that I have been teaching a version of "Tech Comm" for 18 … [Read more...]