Write in plain English

Never try to impress people by using lots of technical terms or acronyms in your writing or presentations.  It is far more impressive to explain a technical subject in plain English. You usually have to assume some level of prior knowledge, but if in doubt write as if the audience is slightly less knowledgeable than …

Write “tech notes”

This tip has completely changed the way I work. A Technical Note is essentially an informal written report.  The idea is that you can publish a tech note on any topic you choose, whenever you like, with no review process and no bureaucracy. For me, they have replaced having a lab book to record day-to-day …

Be consistent when writing

In technical writing, ignore the normal guidance about using synonyms to make your writing less repetitive.  If you mean the same thing, use the same word. If you talk about a spade on one page and a shovel on the next, are you just being careless or do you actually mean different tools? Any increased readability …

Read Strunk & White

Start your quest to become a good writer by reading a small book called “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. If you can’t afford £7 for a paper copy, there seem to be various PDF versions on the internet, although I’m not sure how legal they are.

Learn to write well

Writing clear and readable technical documentation takes time, practice and skill.  Learning that skill is a vital part of becoming a good engineer. Take time to revise as you write.  Read and re-read each paragraph, out loud if necessary.  You are aiming for something concise, readable and unambiguous, which is a lot harder than it …

Learn to write

You might be a competent engineer, but if you can’t spell or use an apostrophe then I’m going to assume you are an idiot until proven otherwise.

State your assumptions

Every piece of engineering is based on assumptions. Write them down clearly at the start of any report. Unless you are terrible at maths, if someone disputes your results they are probably working from different assumptions. If you haven’t made clear what you assumed then this can result in a long and confusing argument. Where …