I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. I’ve come to believe that writing well is at least as important for engineers as calculus. This past semester I took a dissertation writing class from the writing department here at the University of Utah. It was very interesting to read dissertations from fields as diverse as literature, material science, nursing and nuclear engineering. I think that it’s safe to say it was beneficial for everyone involved. One nice resource that another student suggested, is a book title “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White. Yes that’s E.B. White of “Charlotte’s Web” fame. I picked up a copy of the book at the library and have found it an excellent, and readable, resource for writing well. I’ve also discovered that nearly everyone else on the planet knew about it and I was somehow left in the dark. So for any of you who might still be in the dark about this wonderful resource I highly recommend it.
Yes, S&W is a definitive resource for writing (except that most grammarians disagree with their ban on starting a sentence with “However”). If you want to develop a pure joy of the English language by learning to laugh at it, then read Richard Lederer’s books. If punctuation is your bane, try “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss. If you don’t have time to read, then subscribe to the podcast (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/).
I loved “Eats, Shoots, & Leaves!”
I’ve found “Fowler’s Modern English Usage” to be a sane and sensible guide. It avoids an overly prescriptive approach, noting that English is a living and evolving language with surprisingly few formal rules. The emphasis is on clear and unambiguous writing.