Author: WCadmin

Writing for Scientists and Engineers: What’s the Point?

I may be the only Electrical Engineering major working at The Writing Center, well, I’m definitely the only EE major at The Writing Center, but I’m here to tell you that there’s more overlap than you might think, and in often unexpected ways. I don’t expect to turn any engineers over to the humanities entirely, but I’d like to share how I’ve found common logic in two otherwise pretty disparate disciplines.

For any of you out there reading this who like Mathematics as much as I do, you appreciate the way everything fits together so seamlessly to solve any problem; to describe and manipulate any physical reality. Math is not verbal, but it’s nonetheless a descriptive language that allows us to explain the world around us with incredible precision and rich detail. Many people get turned off to math while still learning algebra and trigonometry. But these subjects are merely the syntax and grammar lessons of a language so elegant and concise it can explain anything from kinematic movement to electromagnetic waves and fields with no words at all.

A path integral formulation on writing.
Today I learned that line integrals are path independent. This is a joke about it.

Memorization is not a strength of mine when it come to academics. But for this reason both Mathematics and Writing have been interests of mine. Both require some basic knowledge and understanding, but mostly they teach critical thinking and dynamic problem solving. But just like you’re bound to hate math if all you know are tedious algebra problems, writing is doomed to be a chore if you think it’s just a bunch of comma rules. For either of these subjects to be interesting or engaging, they need to be understood within their broader logic.

As scientists and engineers, we will inevitably need to use both our scientific and verbal languages to communicate our ideas to others, so both are worth the time to develop. Realistically, there’s only a small amount of writing required for science majors. But we can choose to take the requirements we do have as equal opportunities for growth and learning, and maybe have a little fun while we’re at it.

Understanding “Writing” More Broadly

The Great Grammar DebateI can admit that standard grammar is an exceedingly important part of writing, particularly in the academic context that The Writing Center exists in. If only to avoid being distracting to readers, grammar is important. If we also want to convey a sense of professionalism or mastery of coursework, it becomes indispensable.

I will also admit, however, that I absolutely hate focusing on it in sessions. To explain my distain, I will point to my title as a “Writing Consultant.” There is a distinct ideological difference between tutoring writing and tutoring English, as a language. As mentioned in the introduction to this series, The Writing Center does not require consultants to be “grammar experts,” though we all have a general knowledge that is sufficient for most situations.

Though grammar is integral to clear writing, there is a great deal more to the expression of our thoughts, ideas, and feelings through the written word than grammar alone. A typical academic writing assignment, for example, requires that a student be able to read and understand often lengthy prompts, have formulated original, insightful thoughts on the topic, articulate and structure their ideas logically and in adherence with American academic conventions, and all the while keeping in mind course materials and themes. Juggling all of these various, competing conditions requires a number of skills that take time to develop. Our goal at The Writing Center is to not simply to make better papers, but better writers. To do so necessitates that we focus on helping clients develop these skills to do well now, and throughout their college career. Continue reading “Understanding “Writing” More Broadly”