In competitive job markets, it’s becoming increasingly important for science, math and engineering applicants to demonstrate a strong communication skill set.
It’s a common assumption that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) job seekers aren’t expected to have strong communication and writing skills.
But according to Stephanie Roberson Barnard and Deborah St James, authors of Listen. Write. Present.:The Elements for Communicating Science and Technology, the American Society for Engineering Education ranks technical writing No. 2 in a list of 38 necessary skills for engineers and nearly every job in the science and technology fields today requires effective writing skills.
“Whether you’re requesting funds for a research project, a loan for a business venture, or writing a cover letter, resume,or abstract, you’ll want to write with confidence and conviction,” says St. James, deputy director of publications and communications for a biotech company in North Carolina.
Since many STEM job seekers lack the level of communication skills required by today’s employers, the experts suggest that STEM professionals ask four key questions before starting any written communication.
Is it reader based?
Ask yourself who are my readers? Are they colleagues or people outside my field? What do they know? What do they need to know? How can I best present the material to these readers? Knowing who your reader is will help you decide what words to use and exactly how much detail is needed.
Is it purposeful?
Your second question should be, Why am I writing this? Today we live in an over-communicated society: emails, text messages, tweets, ads, letters, newspapers, magazines, books. In fact, most of what we write no one reads. Make sure every word is useful and relevant to every one of your intended readers.
Is it clear and concise?
Generally, the cause of unclear writing is too many words. Many writers attempt to clarify a long, rambling sentence with another long, rambling sentence. If a sentence is unclear, take words out. Be wary of long sentences, unclear antecedents, poor transitions, jargon, clichés, and an alphabet soup of acronyms.
Is it correct?
Nothing puts the kibosh on a grant application, business plan, or resume faster than grammatical, punctuation, or spelling errors. Choose a good dictionary and a reputable style guide for your trade or industry and use it consistently. A style guide is a good investment that will answer questions on grammar, punctuation, and word usage. More importantly, it will help you appear polished and professional.