Four Reasons Engineers Must Write Well


A few years ago, one of the WordRake founders was on a plane to Los Angeles, sitting next to a senior engineer at McDonnell Douglas. Their conversation turned to writing, and the engineer said that his primary mission was impressing upon new engineers its importance. “I tell them, but I don’t think they hear it. Then three years later they complain to me they’re not being promoted. I remind them that their writing skills are not good enough to move them into a managerial position. So they get stuck in their career because they can’t communicate with the written word.”

WordRake and McDonnell Douglas aren’t the only companies that need their engineers to know how to write. A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found the ability to create and edit written reports is one of employers’ top ten criteria when hiring recent college graduates. Here are four reasons writing is critical for engineers.

Avoiding writing is impossible

Regardless of role, we all spend time writing. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the average engineer spends 20-40 percent of her workday writing, and that only increases with promotions. Companies often want the engineers responsible for information to explain it in proposals, emails, contracts, manuals, and other business writings.

If you want to work on a specific project, writing ability matters even more. To convince your firm that your idea should receive the funding and time to become reality, you must write a persuasive proposal.

Communicating to other departments

Engineers often have to write to people without engineering backgrounds. Deborah Tihanyi, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, stressed that a single engineering project can involve collaboration with a range of occupations, including psychologists, public health specialists, and accountants. For diverse teams to succeed, communication skills are crucial.

Even when communicating with other engineers, you need strong writing skills. Engineers must collaborate with engineers around the world, and not everyone may have the same proficiency in a language or understand idioms common in one part of the world. Engineers must simplify their writing so readers can understand it regardless of their native language.

Appealing to your audience

Whether you’re writing to fellow engineers, employees in another department at your company, or the public, to engage your audience, they must find your work interesting. If you want a positive response from your audience, it is your responsibility to make your writing interest them. Overly technical or wordy language tells your audience you expect them to adapt to you. WordRake is one way to make your writing easier to understand. By removing unnecessary words and alerting you to confusing language, WordRake editing software helps writers shorten and enliven their pieces, which helps to make your audience more responsive to your message.

Getting promotions

Just like the senior engineer from McDonnell Douglas, about half of all employers consider writing ability when promoting employees. Companies need their managers to be strong communicators. POP CTO Jake Bennett believes “the nuance of communication is so profoundly important” that he dissects emails with all the managers he oversees. Employers value and reward employees who can create clear guidelines, because strong communicators are well-liked by colleagues, and they make everyone’s job easier and more efficient.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder
Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for the American Bar Association, the Social Security Administration, PG&E, Kraft, Microsoft, and law firms like Jones Day, Sidley, and WilmerHale. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to provide writers a full-time, reliable editor; to save them time and money; and to give them the confidence their writing is as clear and concise as they can make it. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has awarded nine patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."