Effective Scientific and Technical Writing: A Practical Approach

By Rukmini, S. | IUP Journal of Soft Skills, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Effective Scientific and Technical Writing: A Practical Approach


Rukmini, S., IUP Journal of Soft Skills


English has become a global language not only for business and trade but also for science and technology. English has become the lingua franca. In the recent years, the demand for Scientific and Technical Writing (STW) is growing, and globalization has significantly changed the way English is taught in colleges and universities. The advancement of science and technology has not only impacted corporate managers and scientists but also the young graduates who choose science and technology as their specializations. It is imperative that the students should hone their STW skills for excelling in their studies as well as in the professions they opt for. The present paper focuses on the need for honing STW skills for the young graduates, prospective scientists and engineers who have a lot to communicate at their workplace in the future and lastly for English language teachers who need to acquaint with the recent developments in the emerging domain of STW. The paper, besides presenting a brief introduction to STW and its importance at workplace, also discusses the practical approach to learning STW from the English language perspective. At the end, a few applications of STW for students, professionals, scientists and English language teachers are discussed.

Introduction

English has become a global language not only for business and trade but also for science and technology. Scientific and Technical Writing (STW) has been emerging as an important thrust area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). In the recent years, the demand for STW is growing and this is evident from the trends in the teaching of English language. Globalization has significantly changed the way English is taught in colleges and universities. The traditional English teaching with its emphasis on grammar and literature has given way to ESP and specifically STW. This trend is mostly seen in the professional courses. One of the main reasons for this change is that the corporate has adopted English as the means of communication. STW has become a means to promote company s products in the global markets and to sustain in the cutthroat competitive world. Further, the prospective engineers and scientists can also benefit from STW skills to excel in their profession, research field, and the scientific and technical community.

STW writing is used generally for scientific journal articles, books, reports, fliers, advertisements, pamphlets, brochures, leaflets, product description, etc. Every day we find newer trends coming up in all respective fields, especially in the areas of engineering and science. For one may write for the pleasure derived from the creative activity of writing, for sharing one's intellectual pursuits, and to advance human knowledge for the benefit of mankind. For these authors, writing is a channel for expressing the joy of scientific and technical discovery, while for the other, writing may be a chore where getting published is a necessary evil for promotion. Whatever may be the motive, the engineers or scientists will need something important to say if his/ her results are to be published.

The present English language courses in the academic institutions of science and technology fall short of the skills required for teaching the principles of STW to scientists and engineers. The teaching and learning are mostly reader-centric and not writercentric. The focus is mostly on sentence structure, grammar, rules and more rules and more exceptions to the rules. The present English language courses related to improvement of writing skills are not up to the mark and cater only to general purposes and for literary writing. STW is different from literary writing. Literary writing deals primarily with feeling, emotion, opinion and persuasion, while STW emphasizes the dispassionate factual recording of scientific investigation.

While literary writing is filled with extraordinary beauty and complexity with lucid metaphor, similes and figures of speech, STW teems with prosaic words of certain meaning coherently put into precise phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs. …

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