English for engineers. A professional approach

Textbook, 2016

186 Pages






This book is intended to aid engineering students from institutes of technology to equip themselves for their professions.

The areas of study were chosen after consultation with alumni of VIT University, India and our colleagues from the Engineering department and is designed to supplement the specific learning needs of young engineers as they gear up to join a global work force and face international competition. This book is an outcome of need based course and has been put to test with two batches of students. The feedback from students has been carefully considered and topics and details have been added to this text based on the student’s feedback. Hence, this book is ideal for students who would want to engage in a self-study and for Educators who want to give their young engineers exactly what they need for their profession.

For the convince of the Teaching community this book has been divided into Theory and Laboratory. There is specific focus on the skills the learners would have to acquire in the process. Theory focuses on mostly aspects that relate to writing skills required for the professionals and develop their reading too. The Laboratory focuses on their Listening and Speaking skills. From their professional front this book has chapters dedicated to Career and Interview skills.

The tasks and activities are extremely motivational and encouraging, and cater to a mixed abilities group of learners. Emphasis has also been given to pair-work, group discussions and role-plays.

Each chapter concludes with a revision-based activity for consolidating the previous learning. In fact, this trait is repeatedly highlighted in the book, where learners encounter those items which they have learnt earlier in the book, thus facilitating broad-based comprehension.

Finally, this book can be used independently as a course book, and can also function as an excellent supplement to the existing course books.


Unit I

I Profiling Readers

Introduction to Technical Writing

I went for years not finishing anything.

Because, of course, when you finish something,

You can be judged. - Erica Jong

Technical writing involves a writer in the process of contributing to the documentation procedure with a purpose to:

Define - describe a technical object, purpose and category it belongs to.

Explain -process and concept Analyse - to gain a better understanding

Compare and Contrast - to differentiate and validate new concepts

Present Cause and Results -it may state the need or the reason towards advancement in science and technology.

Exemplify - to bring a better understanding of definitions, ideas or developments in technology

Unlike fiction, technical writing involves information that is factual and provides no space for assumptions or difference in interpretations. Hence when you prepare to write a technical component you must plan your document, write it and later review it with a reference to the facts you have collected or arrived at.

Planning to document your writing also means planning the manner through which you plan to present your ideas. Most of the time your technical writing can be governed by factors that pertain to:

- Time
- Space
- Cause and effects

It is advisable to get to know how these factors function before arriving at a final decision to begin your document.


Any scientific or technical narration that is governed by occurrences over a period of time or governed by a specified time limit would fall under this category. It could be a theory based on evolution or a simple pendulum experiment or even something that relates to a research based on the consumption of fuel in terms of thermal efficiency converted into kinetic energy. Apart from this you could also write paragraphs based on time in your document when you are writing your literary review, introductions, comparisons etc.


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Development of communication through ages


This requires a more descriptive approach in terms of explanations offered and most of the time demands the support of visual illustration. Writing paragraphs based on ‘space’ would demand accurate specifications or details and offers no room for assumptions. This may require you to give accuracy of positions, thickness of circuit wires, length, breath and circumference.

Cause and Effect

It brings about the capacity to reason out as to why something happens. It could be something as simple as idea that drinking and driving may lead to an accident.

Alcohol + Driving = Accident

This aspect of writing in your document you may help you write paragraphs that tend to explain, analyse, reason, arrives at conclusions etc.

Profiling Your Reader Are you ready to document?

A question that is yet to be answered and the answer possibly could be, ‘not yet’. As your document is always written with the type of audience you have in mind. It is also essential for you to remember to provide all the necessary information that a reader may look for in your document. However in certain instances the reader of your document may not be exactly the kind of a person you had in mind when you started to write. May be you do have the freedom to write and present information but on the contrary you will have no control over the audience who may reach out to your document for information.

Each of your readers may be from a different background and they may be considered in terms of economic, social, political, cultural, technical and non­
technical groups. And each of them approaches your document looking for different information to which they may relate.

As a writer it becomes your responsibility to get to know them and cater to their various needs.

For this you may have to get to know your readers.

When you begin to think in terms of your reader’s requirement you might become aware that they will fall into different categories.

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Types of readers and their views Your Readers

The primary reader - is usually a person who is assigned the task that engages you.

The Secondary reader - is someone who has the right background to understand the context of your document. They may be from technical and will not require your document to furnish basic information or additional explanation.

The tertiary reader- can approach your document for information and may not have the sufficient technical knowledge to understand a document filled with technical terms. This reader will need your document to furnish details for a better understanding. You may also have to explain technical terms to them.

You will have to start your writing with your idea of who these readers are and their backgrounds. To make your writing clearer still, it is suggested that you also analyse their needs before you begin to pen down your views.

Planner for Reader Profile

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After having analysed your readers and their expectations, it is essential to format your content based on their needs. Your document should address all levels of readers.

Example: 1

In the example below, you have a reader profile prepared by students before they set out to propose the project they intend to work on. The proposal bears a solution for the car parking and traffic problems in cities and towns.

The intention of the team here is to write a proposal addressed to the Project Head of Larson and Toubro India Ltd., to install LED indicators in front of each floor/section of a parking lot and advanced sensors to be installed in cars for better precision while parking and also evades obstacles.

Automated Car Parking System

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Notes based on the tabulated readers analysis :

Our car-parking system will be pitched to our project supervisors and construction teams. They form the core of those who will immediately read and critique the report. Their feedback is essential as they must think that the idea is capable of being sold in the broader markets in the world.

Since our project is of a highly technical nature, we will have to seek a lot of expert views on the matter. These readers with scientific knowledge from our primary readership. They will seek to point out scientific flaws, improvements and other such points that only those with such a background can truly identify. The success of our project depends largely on these people.

Our tertiary readership will include those who we must convey the project to without the overtly technical details; mostly those who will buy the idea and use it for their needs. The commercial success of our project depends on how well we are able to sell it to these readers, and whether or not they believe in its worth.

Finally, we must remember others who have vested interests in our work. And hence, must comply with requisite laws and policies, be they legal, environmental, or health-and-safety related. Also those with an eye out for potential scientific design talent may be keen to take up other ideas with us, provided we are successful in this venture.

These are the various categories of who our readers are likely to be.

Equip the writer in you:

As a writer you should concentrate on:

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Focus areas of the writer


The content of your technical text must be based on factual information alone. For this purpose your resources must be reliable with clarity.


Your presentation should be governed by the factor of cohesion with hierarchical headings and at the same time must be brief, rational, unbiased and supplement the required visual illustrations in accordance to the specifications that you text deals with.


You must possess the appropriate language skill because this may reflect upon the quality of your product. Just like a book is judged by its cover your technical component may be judged by your language. Hence you must be aware of the factors of coherence which deals with common errors that may pertain to grammar, punctuation, misspellings, misused words or ambiguity.

Type of Documents

Your technical document must be formatted and presented to satisfy the needs of these readers who approach your text at different periods, for different reasons and with specifications. These documents vary according to the purpose they serve. They may be categorized as

- Memoranda
- Agendas
- Meeting documents
- Literature reviews
- Proposals
- Reports
- Letters
- Manuals
- Textual pieces of a CD-ROM package
- Online help
- Release notes
- Other documents like white papers

We shall discuss the formats of the said documents in detail in the chapters that follow.

Once you identify your readers their prospects, approach and ideals, you will also have to look into their cultural background since culture plays an important role in communication and in most circumstances has been the reason for the miscommunication.

Given an understanding that your audience may be varied (experts, researchers, executives, journalists, technicians, ect,) you can now plan the manner which would best suit your document's presentation. The challenge that you may face in terms of how, you cater to a person who may need an explanation to basic terms and concepts, whereas on the other hand you may have an expert who may find basic information that you provide to be tiresome. You could provide for this purpose:

Headings and sub-headings to sections and sub-sections in your document. This may be a possible solution to the readers to just focus on the information they require and stay out of what they don’t want.

Provide footnotes with definitions or explanations for terms to satisfy a reader who needs basic information and at the same time saving the expert form being tired of having to read through the basics again.

Visual Illustration will be an added advantage as it brings about clarity of your document where ever required.

- A glossary could be utilized to provide meaning to technical terms
- Appendixes

Or even provide a cross-reference to books or websites.

Strengthen your writing

Adapting and providing information to suit your audience needs will to a great extent benefit your readers especially those, from the non-technical fields. You will also have to keep in mind the factors of coherence and cohesion by the use of appropriate This will prove to be additional benefits to your document.

Transition words

Stronger introductions

Proper topic sentences for every paragraph under each section and sub-section.

The length and style of your sentence Clarity and focus of the concepts discussed Margins, length, , spacing, font and font size

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Consider a text material published in a news paper, magazine or course book and prepare a reader chart of who the possible readers will be for the given documentation. Further analyze how the author of the particular document would have planned the component and the context that it presents.

Have a discussion on in it in your classroom

II Drafts of Abstract and Executive Summary


“Brevity is a soul of wit”


The above mentioned quote suits for writing an effective abstract. An abstract is a brief summary of the contents of your research article or presentation. Usually it covers introduction, methods, results and discussion of your complete research in a limited amount of space. It gives a clear indication of the importance of your research. Your abstract reaches the maximum number of audience comparatively than your complete document. It introduces the content of the entire document at the beginning. Your abstract help the reader to decide whether to read or neglect the complete document. It always adds keywords along with its discipline. The keywords help the researchers to find relevant research content from your document. It helps the search engines such as Google scholar and other websites to track your article.

Components of Abstract

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The components of an abstract

Your abstract should follow the same logical structure of the associated text. It includes Problem statement in a single line and insists on methods , results and conclusion. There is a misconception prevailing saying that you have write the abstract before you start writing the complete document. If you do so , for sure, it won’t be a good abstract for your research paper. Before you start writing the abstract you have to follow the steps given below:

Planning the abstract

If you want to write an effective abstract to attract the audience towards your document to read and cite it in their research work, it is necessary for you to follow these steps.

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The process of planning your abstract Features of an effective abstract

To write an effective abstract for your document you have to check the coherence of thoughts in the abstract. It is necessary to check the conciseness of the abstract because your abstract should not be too lengthy. Lengthy abstract may mislead the audience to consider it as a boring document with unnecessary details. Make sure of the contents provided in your abstract are accurate and the research details are as

same as the main document. Don’t include any research details that is not included in the main document. You have to use passive structure rather than focusing on the people those who have done the research work. Keep in mind- never include any references in the abstract . It is just an overview of what you have done . In the journal articles it has been placed at the beginning of the document whereas the documents such as thesis and major projects a separate page at the beginning of the document should be given to place the abstract. Never use any complicated words in your abstract. You have to use simple language only then it will reach wider audience.

To put it in a nutshell, your abstract would be effective when it has the elements mentioned in the picture given below:

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Elements of the abstract

You have choices to write abstract. There are two types of abstract such as Informative abstract and indicative abstract. You can use the format of informative abstract if your document is a strictly structured with experiments, investigations or surveys. During when you need to emphasize on the purpose of the study, methodology, results and conclusions of your research work. You have to concentrate on primary objectives of your experiment when you write the purpose section of your abstract. It always contains the hypothesis of your experiment. Methodology of your experiment should take place once you complete the hypothesis. It should describe various techniques used in your experiment or investigation. Include only the details of the experiment which helped you to come up with results. Never give too many details of your experiments when they are less important in your research. Mention only the results of the experiments when they are related to your objectives and hypothesis. You can include a brief detail about the data collected during the experiment in the results section. At the end of your abstract it is necessary to include analysis of experiment results and implication of the results in the part of conclusion.

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Structure of an informative abstract

You can use the structure of indicative abstracts when you write abstracts for essays, editorial reviews or books. It usually consists of three major parts such as Scope, arguments and conclusions. State the range of materials dealt with in the document at the beginning of the document. You have to include the important arguments and counter arguments employed in the original document. Make sure that the arguments and the counter arguments provided in the indicative abstract are in the same progression in which they actually appear in the full document. Remember to end the abstract with the main closing argument and its implications suggested by the author. You can very well use indicative abstracts for writing views on traditional literature and newspaper article etc.

Since you are engineers, structure and components of informative abstract will help you to write an effective abstract for the most of your technical documents. Keep in mind-You have to register check list in your mind to check the components of the abstract of your document. Make sure, how accurate your abstract is? How brief your abstract is? How clear your abstract is? For your readers / audience.

Sample for Informative Abstract

This paper examined the adoption and the uses of social network site (SNS) namely Facebook in South Korea. The aim of the study is to explore the factors contributing to the adoption and the uses of social network. The paper uses both qualitative and quantitative approaches for research methodology. The qualitative method is used to gain insight into how consumers value social networking by interviewing both users and non-users. Thirty-five questions were developed in the questionnaire based on the interview. Factor Analysis suggested nine characteristics of the adoption, namely involvement, usefulness, usage, trust, convenience, openness of information, audience, making contacts, and acceptability. A MANOVA test showed that there were significant difference on the attributes of the adoption by gender and ages. ANOVA showed that males and females differed on their attitudes toward five attributes of the adoption: involvement, usefulness, usage, openness of information, and audience. It also showed that different ages of people differed in their attitudes toward five attributes of the adoption: involvement, usefulness, usage, convenience, and openness of information. The paper indicated that Korean consumers get involved, perceive usefulness, use, and accept social network as a part of their life styles. Marketing managers should be aware of the opportunities to utilize the usefulness of social network, which may provide an avenue for companies to reach their customers more effectively. Keywords: social network, facebook, adoption, Korean consumers, factor analysis, South Korea

Sample for Indicative Abstract

This article examines a collection of poems entitled ‘The Death of God’ (2005) by the contemporary Argentine poet Carlos Velazco. Despite an unmistakable Nietzschean resonance, ‘The Death of God’ is actually less about God’s death itself and more about what, in the prose introduction, Velazco calls ‘the bitter struggle to rid myself of nostalgia for God’. Quite unlike Nietzsche’s madman, for whom the ‘tremendous event’ of God’s death ‘has not yet reached the ears of men’, the dramatic orientation of Velazco’s poetry is decisively backward-looking and nostalgic: God is already dead, and the poet’s brooding, agonized reflections are fired not so much by the desire to hasten his demise as the need to mourn it. In fact, it is just this sense of poetry as a specifically theological act of mourning that lends ‘The Death of God’ part of its significance. The other part owes to the manner in which that act of mourning is undertaken. For if Velazco sets out to reconcile himself to God’s death, he ends by concluding that such reconciliation is impossible. That impossibility, moreover, owes less to philosophical doubt or psychological quirk than to something inherent in the process of poetic meaning-making itself. If mourning is impossible, it is because poetic language is itself inherently theological, and any attempt to take leave of God poetically is doomed to end in performative contradiction.


An executive summary for technical document is the complete extract of your document. Its purpose is to give your reader a quick preview of its contents as it provides a concise, complete, specific and self-sufficient information that can be understood in isolation. The skill to abbreviate the complete document into few pages helps you to move ahead towards the way of success. For it informs and persuades the reader to explore the text further.

Readers of the document

As you begin to write the executive summaries remember to analyse your readers and their expectations. They will expect to save their time as they scan your executive summary, for its purpose is to directly address the context of the document. You will have to present the crux of your document in your executive summary, for it may be your project evaluator, superior or a person, who sanctions your grant; who is reading through your document.

Directing the summary to the specific reader increases the effectiveness of the document. For instance, if the document is based on a possible development in technology and you seek funding for the same you may have provided a number of reasons based on surveys you carried out. Must in your summary you will be presenting selective information that would help your reader to understand your statements and purpose. At the same time they will also have to have an idea about the support you expect from them in terms of sanctions, proceedings and results.

Style and format

You have to remember that the executive managers and the investors often will take decisions based on the executive summary. Hence the style, language and the format should be appropriate. The executive summary shares the preview of the document in the formal tone by using direct, clear and specific language. You can use simple short sentences to maintain the clarity throughout the work and avoid lengthy transitions and examples. The executive summary consists of the following components,

- Issue
- Scope and limitations
- Procedure

Significant Results and Recommendations

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The components of an executive summary

To arrive at the sequence mentioned above you could consider using a formula as it gives a clear idea of the document at the end line also.


Transitional Word + Information In The Summary+ Recommendations = Executive summary.

Executive Summary Vs Abstract

If you are wondering about the difference between the Executive Summary and Abstract, all you will have to remember is that the executive summary for the first part is longer than the abstract. For, the abstract may not exceed a paragraph or so. Whereas the executive summary runs to about two to three pages. The next point worth remembering would be the abstracts comes in for and academic audience, whereas the Executive summary belongs to a corporate audience .

Writing Style

An effective Executive summary should have the following:

- Don’t recycle the sentences and paragraphs from the body of the document.
- Follow impersonal writing style to ensure that the document remains formal.
- Avoid all jargons and slangs.
- Use accurate grammar, spelling, sentence and paragraph structure.
- Use bullets and organizational structure.
- It should be 10% of the total length of the document.

Does your document answer to four wh. Questions such as :
- What is the document about?
- Why is it important?
- What is included in the document?
- What is included in each section?

These questions will reflect the content accurately when it is written after the whole document has been made.

Given below is a template of the Executive Summary which gives you details of the sequential arrangement of the content of the executive summary.



State the problem you propose to deal with.

Scope and Limitations of The Study

State possibilities of further work that relates to your area of discussion and reason your limitations.


Methodology or steps that you have followed.


State your final outcome.


Provide a list of recommendations that can be considered and provide justifications to support your statements.

Example: Continuance to Use Framemaker for Documentation

Executive Summary

The Technical Writing Department of Under the Bridge Software Systems is considering moving from print to electronic documentation for its software products. The end product will be a universally compatible pdf file. The company plans to use Adobe Acrobat to produce the pdf files. For the basic document creation software, this report investigates the feasibility of purchasing an industry-standard word processing package versus a desktop publishing package. The two products being considered are:

- Word, a word processing package already used company wide for other types of documentation.
- FrameMaker, a desktop publishing package that the Technical Writing .Department uses to create the company’s print manuals

Neither product requires that users be trained, and both are compatible with Adobe Acrobat. This report analyzes the two packages using Under the Bridge Software Systems’ established criteria:

- Ease of navigation: Writers can automatically create a clickable table of contents with pdf files produced from FrameMaker documents. Although Word produces an electronic document, it does not produce a clickable table of contents; the customer must page through the document.
- Compatibility with existing manuals: FrameMaker allows easy updating of print manuals to electronic manuals.
- Cost: The cost of either package is negligible since the company has licenses for both. However, the only drawback of switching to Word is the additional cost in labour to customize the software.

This report recommends that the Technical Writing Department of Under the Bridge Software Systems continue to use FrameMaker to produce its documents.

Imagine that you have completed a research article on operating system that includes all your experimental details. Write an informative abstract for the research article which you have finished.

Write down an executive summary of the project which you have recently finished.

Unit II

III Proof Reading

The final part of any of your documentation after all the planning, researching and formatting involves revising if your ideas have been presented properly and a check on the factors of coherence and cohesion. You will have to proofread your documentation and check for errors that will have to be carried out.

Proofreading your document happens to be a crucial part of your documentation as it becomes a decisive factor of quality that relates to your work. You could use a number of grammar and spell check software’s available like:

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You will have to use your discretion on the suggestions or changes the software may offer. The illustration below gives you an idea of how you could use your ‘Microsoft office’, to use in order to correct the document and keep the changes visible.

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You may consider the steps you may want to follow

Step 1 : Open the content to be edited

Step 2 : Click on Review and then on track changes.

Step 3 : Select spelling and grammar check and don’t forget to select the language option that suits you.

Step 4 : A dialogue box opens with suggestions which you may accept/ ignore or change.

Step 5 : Your document is almost ready for the purpose you have at hand. After you review it for the last time.

However in case you have a hard copy of the document you may consider familiarizing with some basics of proofreading symbols. These may come in handy when there is someone working on your document and looks up to you for instructions and approval of changes to be carried out. A few of the symbols have been listed below. You could also look up the Merriam Webster online using the link provided

URL - http://www.merriam-webster.com/mw/table/proofrea.htm

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Now that you have an idea about how you review and proof reading work with your team and analyze your documents and edit them to be free from errors.

IV Writing Instructions

All through our lives, we find ourselves dealing with different instructions on how to do things. And quite often we have to read and follow instructions in order to be able to assemble, install or operate a device. As, we encounter instructions every day and you, as engineers, will need to write instructions at some point during your work life, it is important that we learn how to write good instructions. But, sadly, instructions are the some of the most badly written technical documents ever, and that leads to a lot of headache to the readers of these instructions. Most of us are only used to reading instructions, whereas writing instructions are an altogether different ball game that requires us to see things from the viewpoint of both the reader and the writer.

Usually, most of the instructions are short and brief, but many other instructions could potentially be longer and take great thought to complete them. In order to be able to write effective instructions, it is important to understand the nature of instructions in technical writing. There are many functions of instructions. They are used as procedural guides, to help assemble, install and operate products, as decision making guides to help choose among alternative applications and actions and as troubleshooting guides, in helping users isolate problems and determine the source the sources they need to make repairs.

Things to keep in mind while writing instructions

The Intended Reader: In order to profile the intended reader of your instructions, ask the following questions:

- Who will follow the instructions?
- What do they need to follow them?
- When do they need to follow them?
- Where do they need to follow them?
- Why do they need to follow them?
- How skilled is he/ she?
- How will he/ she approach the document?
- You can imagine your readers to be one of the following kinds:
- Those who read everything thoroughly before beginning to follow any of the steps. These people are relatively uncommon.
- Those who read and perform one step at a time, without looking ahead to the next. This is a very common type of readers.

Some of the readers begin a task without reading any instructions and turn to them only when difficulties arise. These readers are also very common.

And lastly, those who begin a task without reading any instructions and, when difficulties arise, hand the project over to somebody else.


Excerpt out of 186 pages


English for engineers. A professional approach
Jazan University - KSA  (and VIT University, India)
English for Engineers, Technical Communication
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1969 KB
Technical communication, English for Engineers, Report Writing, English for Specific Purposes
Quote paper
Maria Mercy Amutha Amalraj (Author)R. Nageswari (Author), 2016, English for engineers. A professional approach, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/342451


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