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Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/17/2016 2:59 PM

How much is writing used in the Mechanical Engineering field, for what use, and in what form? I'm a college student at Utah State University, doing a research paper on the mechanical engineering community.

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#1

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/17/2016 3:48 PM

Do you mean "hand" writing?

Be specific in your request.

Are you talking about taking notes? Recording results of experiments? Writing reports? Writing justifications for new equipment? Writing proposals for new business? Responding to RFQ's?

Will you give the forum credit for our input? You are required to list your sources, right?

I'm guessing your major is business?

Management?

Accounting?

Be specific.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/17/2016 3:58 PM

Yes I will give credit to the person who replies, as well as the forum. Writing in general. What percentage of your time do you spend writing? In what form do you do the majority of your writing in? And how important is writing in your advancement?

And I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering, but the research paper is for my writing class.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/17/2016 4:47 PM

It's not an easy answer.

If you're doing pure research or testing a material in the lab, you will take lots of hand notes. Sketches, formulae, equations are best done by hand, then transcribed, unless you can take your PC/laptop/tablet with you on-site.

Engineers may take notes to be dated, witnessed by someone who understands that engineering and filed away for later patent application use. Laptops may be used for this, but the record must be validated and the date of discovery confirmed by an associate.

Later reports, applications and documentation probably will be done on PC.

Percentage of time depends strictly on what you are doing.

My recollection is that the typical engineer will spend as little time writing as he can. Again mostly on a PC.

The ability to communicate your thoughts is far more important than the method you use.

For me, text speak is out. Simple English in complete sentences is preferred unless your audience is under 30.

I wrote a lot of material specifications and directions for application/use of those materials on a PC. Clarity was essential. You are not usually out to impress the reader, just get the point across clearly.

Again, it is difficult to quantify the amount of writing you will do.

You might contact some of these organizations:

  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
  • International Academy for Production Engineering (CIRP)
  • Society of Automotive Engineers.
  • Society of Manufacturing Engineers.Good luck.

Good luck.

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#16
In reply to #2

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/19/2016 8:22 AM

Writing is important no matter what you choose to get your education in. The art of written communication is dieing with the increased use/dependency of/on technology. The "writing" can be in any format, but, for those of us who tend to rush our hand writing, it is more usual to use a PC to ensure that everything is legible, but hand written notes may still be needed and later referred back to. A good keyboarding course (typing for those of my generation) can do wonders. It has been my experience that true informative writing uses the form that is required for the intended audience to understand, and, therefore, can take on many different "genres" of writing. Learn all you can now, as you do not know what you may yet need at some time in the future. Being able to communicate effectively, especially in written form will likely be the key to your advancement. Make sure that you use proper grammar as well. For old schoolers like me, incorrect use of grammar does not impress.

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#20
In reply to #2

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/19/2016 3:32 PM

To answer your question from my perspective only, I probably spend 15-20 percent of my work time writing. Most of the documents are agendas, notes, and minutes from design meetings that will be viewed by other engineers, marketing, and senior management. I often put together summaries of design or customer service related issues for that same audience.

Most documents are rather informal, as they only need to contain the minimum amount of verbiage to get the information across, but I do follow a regular format for each of those documents and for archiving. The format used depends on the audience and what is being communicated.

Patent applications tend to be a style all their own, heavily influenced by the attorneys.

Almost all documents are typed. I used to keep all my own project notes electronically, but tend to do more by handwriting these days.

If your written communications are well-organized, clear, and concise, those skills will enhance the likelihood of you being selected to manage a project or team, thus affecting your advancement.

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#21
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Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/19/2016 3:58 PM

Not only reports and the like, but one can get into writing "manuals" based on the various standards that may apply to your field, such as ISO9001 quality and others. That has become a regular part of my "job", and being able to interpret the applicable standard and "translate" it into a working document that satisfies the "intent" takes some interesting verbiage.

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#4

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/17/2016 5:03 PM

Most of my writing was descriptions and invoices...and yes the ability to speak and write properly in correct and understandable jargon is essential to success....not to mention taking measurements and accurate drawings, composing lists of materials, proper spelling and grammar, neat legible characters...accurate communication is key to success in any endeavor....and required in most....

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#5

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/17/2016 5:11 PM

I agree with what Lyn said.

I'd add that effective report writing in Engineering is different from the style you're often taught in English class or in science labs. Employers want things informative, easy to understand, and right to the point. So typically a good engineering report follows the format:

Introduction / Conclusions / Test Method / Data / Summary

Note that the Introduction should be 2 or 3 concise sentences, and the 'Conclusions' come second. Employers want to know what the problem is and how it was solved. Often that's as far as they read when they first see the report, but they'll want the rest of the information available for later study.

The other two major types of writing that engineers do are 1) Procedures - for example Test Procedures, Assembly Procedures, Quality Control Procedures, Data Analysis Procedures, et cetera; and 2) Proposals - mainly writing the section of a proposal for a potential customer involving the engineer's particular field of concentration. So an electrical engineer might write the power analysis section of a proposal or the signal processing section..., a mechanical engineer might write the thermal analysis section or vibration analysis section.., et cetera.

As you move up in a company the amount of writing typically increases and the nitty-gritty hands-on work of engineering decreases.

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#6

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/17/2016 6:00 PM

My personal experience has been that engineers feel they know everything and that all other engineers know as much as they do thusly they don't have write down anything ever.

That and physical documentation equals proof of potential liability.

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#7

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/17/2016 10:34 PM

Social network for mechanical engineers has been launched.

http://mech-engg.com

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#8

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/18/2016 1:09 AM

Solar Eagle appropriately mentions "proper spelling and grammar, neat legible characters...accurate communication is key to success".

The OP has asked "how much" and "in what form", but SE's reply adds the quality parameter, which I feel you should also consider. Quality writing can be difficult to make universal.

Handwriting or typing aside, "proper spelling" depends upon the nationality of your audience. US English says "jewelry" while UK English says "jewellery". US English says "jail" while UK English says "gaol".

"Proper grammar" is a lost art. Split infinitives are the least of your issues. Modern jargon says "I could care less" because it never knew "I couldn't care less" was the intended sentence.

My two personal bugbears are those who cannot write legible numbers (is that a six or a badly formed zero?) and those who do not recognise cross-cultural digits. A European seven may have a cross-bar and a European one may resemble a caret, thanks to a leading upstroke. Those from other cultures often mistake a European one as a lazy four, or sometimes a European seven as an oddball three.

Please include in your research not just "how much" and "in what form" but also the quality question "how comprehensible".

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#9

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/18/2016 2:35 AM

Dear Mr. Casey Tollson,

I understand from your posting that you are a student. Attending the classes regularly and taking notes is very essential (in your terms - it is writing). This will help you to record in your mind. Perhaps listening lecture is also good but it may not deeply record in your mind all times as human mind is always wandering.

It is said "writing one time is equal to reading 10 times again and again."

DHAYANANDHAN.S

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/18/2016 11:49 AM

I agree that writing something down commits it to memory.

My father never kept business cards, someone would hand him one, he would write all of its information down in his notebook and return the card to the person offering it. This simple act, while a bit time consuming, placed the person's name, face and other pertinent information firmly in his memory.

I take notes in meetings, these notes are promptly thrown out when I leave the meeting, the act of writing them down on paper is enough to commit the important things to memory.

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#10

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/18/2016 11:36 AM

The bunch here are like a bucket of wet cats. Maybe you should do your paper on the horticultural community!

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#12

Re: Use of writing in the mechanical engineering field

09/18/2016 12:46 PM

Mechanical Engineers communicating between themselves or other engineering disciplines tend not to rely too much on written text. A drawing, a sketch, a schematic diagram, a formula, a Boolean equation, a flow chart or a list of dimensions is often better at conveying what needs to be communicated. That works when both parties are trained to understand the symbols and these methods leave less room for misinterpretation. As engineers become more senior their interaction with non engineers increases, and rarely are accountants or managers or in many cases customers able to interpret drawings and schematics to the level needed to adequately understand the message. Engineers then have to fall back on the written word to get the message across. Written language, especially English, is not very precise, nor are engineers particularly versed in writing well. What can be stated with mathematical precision in a single line of Boolean algebra could take two pages of explanation in written text, and the odds are high that what the reader comprehends will not be exactly what the writer intended to convey.

To answer your three questions specifically

How much? Not used a lot by junior engineers but used increasingly as they are promoted. As an engineering design consultant I now spend more time writing than I do designing.

What for? Mostly to explain to non engineers how something works or will work when it's built. Why it broke and how you fixed it, or how someone else should go about fixing it. How to improve the performance, or make it safer, or easier to use. To explain what it will cost, and justify why they should spend the money, what the risks are, and when they will get payback.

What form? Proposals, specifications, quotations, work sheets, time sheets, reports. Almost everything is now done on computer/laptop/tablet/I-phone, (the spelling is still as bad (spellcheckers do not contain an engineering vocabulary) but at least now you don't have to decipher the scrawl. There are a few software programs about that claim to reduce maintenance and faultfinding report writing by having boxes to tick for the most common faults, but in my opinion if a fault occurs often enough to justify having it's own box then the equipment should be modified to eliminate the problem permanently.

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#13

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/18/2016 1:03 PM

1) Tell'em what you're GONNA tell them...(intro)

2) TELL them...(body)

3) Tell'em what you've TOLD them...(summary)

4) Tell'em where it all CAME from...(resources)

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#14

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/19/2016 2:19 AM

Regardless of what your major is, there will be times where you are required to transmit information.

During my freshman year in college I was required to write a paper on any subject that I chose.

Since the course was given by the English Department, the professor indicated tht should we use technical terminology, he would have someone in the appropriate department review the validity of the technology - so I learned to write using proper terminology - no BS-ing to fill space.

For approximately a third of my professional career, very little writing was required; one job required that I prepare reports based on data obtained in laboratory and field experiments - these were read by management personnel.

My last job as an inspector required that I periodically write rather descriptive reports of what I had observed in the field.

One of the reports required that I explain the operation of a piece of apparatus to someone with no engineering background - my written reports on certain situations were being read by upper management!

So depending on where your career takes you you will always be required to do some writing, and your ability to present a good report or answer a question will enhance your value to an organization, but will never detract from it.

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#15

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/19/2016 5:17 AM

As an aged mech eng, I find that - due to a deteriorating memory and waves of boredom in meetings - writing stuff down, using paper and a mechanical pencil, is an invaluable tool in getting me through all sorts of tasks.

Yes, I use desktop PCs, laptops (several), a tablet and a phone, but - call me a Luddite, pencil and paper still works for me.

It's a hell of a lot better than making grunting sounds and waving your arms about while half way up a tree.

Don't get me going on text-speak.

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#17

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/19/2016 12:17 PM

When I was in engineering school, I took a technical writing class recommended to me by one of my professors. Yes, it meant my reports were a bit more dull than prose written for any other elective class. But, that learning to best communicate what mattered has served me well, even now, 20 years later.

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#18

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/19/2016 3:07 PM

Hi Casey:

Mechanical engineering in general doesn't seem like it requires writing skill, other than the obvious reporting for design and testing. I believe many have entered the field thinking they were escaping the need to write.

I choose to think a bit differently, maybe because my degrees are not engineering but math and physics. I entered mechanical engineering when I really wanted to teach, but took the first job available. As if turns out teaching jobs were scarce and engineering jobs available.

After a few tears I was hooked. doing something I thought was impossible (as a newcomer) and fascinated with the variety. Mechanical engineering was not limited to just mechanical but a variety of other opportunities.

That's where the writing come into play. Descriptions to other engineers and customers about products, interpreting conditions accurately, based on writing skills. How important is writing? Do you want to have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects? Work with people that are looking to the future? not to say if you don't consider the importance of writing that it won't happen, but writing skills will tend to facilitate accessing more opportunities.

Sorry if this seems like a text book answer, it's not. Learn to write and you will have a talent no one can take from you.

Hope this is of interest, the best with your studies.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/19/2016 3:20 PM

And, may I add, a talent that will do everything to enhance your career. Technical writing may be where you start out, but, the ability to properly use English or your native language will allow for growth.

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#22

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/20/2016 6:33 PM

No matter what current philosophy is re: cursive handwriting or math facts-tables-or whatever term you use, these are tools that a good engineer needs to perform many duties or tasks. When you are sent out into the field to trouble shoot issues, a pad and pencil are far more useful than a computer or tablet. When you are there crawling over piping, pumps, compressors, motors, etc. to figure out where the problem is, a computer will be too hard to use to describe your visual observations whereas notes and sketches are much easier and quicker with pad and pencil. Yes, your smart phone taking pictures is a vast improvement over using a film camera which I needed back in the 60's - 70's and I would have used it if available. But using it to take notes, no, I still would have opted for pad and pencil and still would. As far as voice recognition to text, no. If you question that, put on you TV (cc) Close captioning, and carefully read some of the translations provided. Some are downright ugly and if you're doing technical terms, it's questionable as to the translations you might get. Lastly, spell-check doesn't always catch improper spelling or grammar. Recently an e-mail discussed a "fowl smell" instead of a "foul smell". I got the jist but would you want to submit that to your boss? As a Post Script, I recently corrected my granddaughter's math and she was off by 2 decimal points. I asked her about "approximation" using "rounding up or down" and she looked like I had just asked her to explain "nuclear fission". If she had been taught her "multiplication tables" she would have caught the error as quickly as I did with a quick visual.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Use of Writing in the Mechanical Engineering Field

09/20/2016 8:54 PM

Very concise and accurate.

I would only add that "spellcheck" and "grammar-check" frequently suggest erroneous corrections even when the mode is set to "technical". There will be many times that you want to spell or write a word or phrase that the computer's brain cannot recognize-especially engineering terminology.

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