Let’s Engineer Communication!

Teaching communication to engineers looks a lot like conducting an orchestra.

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 years.  I don’t share this personal fact to scare them, as in “Hey, I’ve been teaching this course for 18 years, I know everything about being a writing and speaking engineer, so don’t give me any of your sass!”  No, I like to tell students this so they know that I am dedicated to one project during the next ten weeks of the term:  to help them improve their writing and speaking.

The focus of the course and my single-mindedness in teaching it make this one of my favorites.  Unlike the literature electives I teach, Tech Comm is absolutely practical, immediately applicable to many aspects of a student’s life (team projects, romantic relationships, job searches), and consequently memorable, if the number of alumni I talk to about communication is any indication.  While they are students, they may not see exactly how important communication will be to them professionally, but as alumni, they definitely get the message.

When I teach writing to engineers, I find that they often make a sorry mess of it.  I read sentences that don’t make sense and paragraphs that are incoherent, but reading bad writing doesn’t bother me.   Now, if I had to teach students to play an instrument, or if I had to listen to them singing badly, I’m sure I would have to quit. Don’t ask me why this is, it just is.

So I’ll be posting from time to time about my students and their work in Technical and Professional Communication over the next ten weeks.  I will even invite some of them to post to this blog.  I promise that their writing here, when it appears, will be well-written and a pleasure to read!



  1. Jake Bruhl says:

    As one of your former students, Dr. Williams, I can say with certainty that I’ve used what you taught us in the memorable technical communications course time and time again. In fact, the reference books from that class still find themselves opened on my desk on a regular basis. Thank you for your dedication to helping those of us who took up engineering because we thought we wouldn’t have to write many papers! There is no question that engineers have to be able to communicate effectively – especially in written form. I look forward to reading your students’ writing.

    • Jake, thanks for posting your comment. Any time you want to drop by and attend class, you are more than welcome!

  2. ma’amthis is jeeva s from bangalore(india),i have a lot ofcommunication problem could you guide me. right now i am pursuing PGDM.. could you help me ma’am, i am struggling my day to day life i have studied my schooling by mother tongue…. so please help me..

    • president says:

      Thank you for contacting PCS. I appreciate the challenges you face as an English language learner. Unfortunately our website does not currently offer resources that address these issues. I’d like to recommend a new project from IEEE called English for Engineers. It is a self-paced tutorial that assists with language learning. You can find the product at: http://english.ieee-elearning.org/

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