Improving Your Writing

by Eugene E. Dallaire, Asst. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1975, Vol. 45, Issue 1, Pg. 60-63

Document Type: Feature article


This article gives tips for improving your writing. It focuses on the writing of the magazine article, since the same principles are applicable to writing letters, memos, engineering reports. Many writers greatly overestimate their readers' knowledge; or try to impress them with their erudition. Some mistakenly believe the more difficult the writing, the harder it is to read and to understand, the more big words it has, the more learned, the more profound the writer. Not so. Good writing is clear, simple, easy to read, unpretentious. Its purpose is not to impress, but to inform. Your aim should be not merely to be understood; but to avoid being misunderstood. It's best to assume the reader has only a general knowledge of engineering, that he knows absolutely nothing about your chosen topic. Use everyday words, words of one and two syllables; avoid pollysyllabic words. Write as you talk, only tighten it up a bit. What to say? Bombard your topic with questions, questions the curious reader would ask. Do research to answer these questions. Organize your article by answering these questions in a logical sequence. Be specific: pack your article with phrases like for instance or for example.

Subject Headings: Writing skills | Professional societies | Explosions

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