PCS Newsletters Archive–Everything Old is New Again!

The header from the first IEEE Group on Engineering Writing and Speech

Bell-bottom jeans, disco music, and a Dodge Dart--if you take a look at consumer culture, you would suspect that we are in the midst of a 70's revival.  In the case of PCS, you need look no further than the PCS Newsletters Archive, now available on the PCS website. These newsletters first began appearing in August 1970 and covered a variety of … [Read more...]

New Year, New You? Communication Resolutions for 2014

It's a new year!  Why not create communication resolutions for 2014?

We are 11 days into the new year, and a few days after the Polar Vortex, so it seems like a good time to think about communication resolutions for 2014.  Communication resolutions, you ask?  Aren't resolutions just for reducing food intake and getting more exercise?  Absolutely not!  Like maintaining a healthy weight and working out regularly, … [Read more...]

Welcome Class of 2017!

Move in day at Rose-Hulman, when temps reached the 90's!

At this time of year, as Rose-Hulman first year students arrive and begin orientation, I always like to take a look at the Beloit College Mindset List, an inventory of the Class of 2017.  Every year the list makes its rounds among college faculty who realize once again that there is a large gulf between the old professors and the new … [Read more...]

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

Meet the brightest light in the game theory firmament!

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

There's a YouTube video for that.

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

A great musical and grammatically correct!

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 … [Read more...]

The Golden Rule of Clarity

All writing should be as clear as an open window on a sunny day.

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?

Misplace a comma or misuse "their," and this guy will misplace your resume!

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, … [Read more...]

Oh Wow!

Here's an image I can get behind:  a dog with graph and chart!

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...]