Revising for Clarity



Writing clearly and unambiguously can be crucial for engineers. For example, we know of a case where a subcontractor misinterpreted ambiguous instructions and dumped landfill in the wrong location. The resulting loss of time, money, and goodwill (and the potential for lawsuits) could have been avoided if the instructions had been clearly written. You must communicate as clearly and unambiguously as possible. Engineers who cannot communicate clearly do not generally progress in their careers as far or as quickly as those who can. The farther you progress, the more important this ability becomes because you will spend increasingly more time writing for non-expert readers. The more complex your ideas and the greater your knowledge compared to that of your readers, the more important clarity becomes.

In this section, we point to a number of revising strategies that can help ensure you convey information and ideas clearly. Note, however, that the revising strategies already discussed for improving order and connection (and others we discuss for improving conciseness) can also improve clarity. To some degree, all effective revisions improve clarity.

bullet Short Sentences
bullet General Language
bullet Jargon & Specialized Language
bullet Acronyms
bullet Lengthy Noun Strings
bullet Prepositional Phrases
bullet Punctuation