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Eliminating Sporadic Noise in

Engineering Writing
This chapter covers:
Spelling and spell checkers
Punctuation
Sentence errors
Technical usage
Editing

Spelling and Spell Checkers


Watch out for these . . .
its vs its
there vs their vs theyre
affect vs effect
principal vs principle
your vs youre
And there are more!

Commas
Introductory-element comma:
Although the CHIP House took about US$1 million to
develop,
producing a duplicate would cost around US$300,000.
Nonintroductory element (no comma):
Producing a duplicate of the CHIP House would cost around
US$300,000.
Compound-sentence comma:
The energy efficiency of the CHIP House makes it stand out
on its own, but its smart features move it beyond the
typical green-conscious home.
Noncompound-sentence element (compound predicate):
Tomorrows engineers will have to be able to manage
information overload and communicate skillfully in a
variety of media.
Restrictive- and nonrestrictive-element comma:

Semicolons
Closely related independent clauses:
The CHIP Houses most striking feature is the insulation
fitted around
the entire 750-square foot home; this makes it look like a
giant mattress but also preserves the interior temperature.
Series elements with internal punctuation:
The team is made up of Seth Deleery, vice-president of
marketing; Nat Beers, director of research; Ruth Ustby,
assistant director of training and human relations; and
Cate Kanapathy, chief avionics engineer.

Colons
Complete sentence introducing a list:
For the final exam you will need several items: a pencil, a
calculator, and three sheets of graph paper.
Complete sentence introducing a statement:
The line-of-sight in a communication satellite can be a
problem: communication satellites can see the earth's
surface only between about 83 degrees north latitude and
83 degrees south latitude.

Parentheses
Resistor R5 introduces feedback in the circuit (see Figure
5).
This reference book (published in 1993) still contains
useful information.
Typical indoor levels of radon average 1.5 picocuries per
liter (a measure of radioactivity per unit volume of air).
Whenever I design a circuit (like this one), I determine the
values of the
components in advance.
I have already calculated the values of the resistors. (R1 is
10.5 K, and R2 is 98 .) The next step is to choose standard
values.

Dashes
Emphasis: Staying up all night to finish a lab project is not
so terribleonce in a while.
Summary: Reading all warnings, wearing safety glasses
and hardhats, and
avoiding hot materialsall these practices are crucial to
sensible
workshop procedure.
Insertion: My opinionwhether you want to hear it or not
is that the drill does not meet the specifications
promised by our supplier.

Hyphens
Punctuation problem: We used a 16 key keypad.
Revision: We used a 16-key keypad.
Punctuation problem: We knew Marienet made klystrons
would be able togenerate a 9.395 GHz microwave.
Revision: We knew Marienet-made klystrons would be able
to generate a
9.395 GHz microwave.
Punctuation problem: The equation assumes a one
dimensional plane wave propagation inside the horn.
Revision: The equation assumes a one-dimensional planewave propagation inside the horn.
Punctuation problem: Research showed the computer
aided students
improved their grades dramatically.
Revision: Research showed the computer-aided students
improved their

Quotation Marks
The manager stressed to the whole group that the key
word was
Preparedness.
The correct answer is 18.2 Joules, he told me.
We had heard about the Four-Star Marketing Plan, but no
one remembered what it involved.
We left the game right after the band played The Eyes of
Texas; it was too darned hot and humid to stay any
longer.
Their manager bluntly asked, Are we on schedule?
What is the meaning of the term antepenultimate?

Subject-Verb Agreement
Agreement problem: This combination of electrical components
constitute a
single-pole RC filter.
Revision: This combination of electrical components constitutes a
single-pole
RC filter.
Agreement problem: A 35 mm film of some high buildings are
strongly recommended.
Revision: A 35 mm film of some high buildings is strongly
recommended.
Agreement problem: Only one of the pre-1925 high-rise
structures were damaged
in the quake.
Revision: Only one of the pre-1925 high-rise structures was
damaged in the
quake.

Modifier problems
Modifier problem: After testing the mechanism, the theory
behind it was easily understood.
Revision: After testing the mechanism, we easily
understood the theory.
Modifier problem: Once having completed needed
modifications and adjustments, the equipment operated
correctly and met all specifications.
Revision: Once we had completed needed modifications
and adjustments, the equipment operated correctly and
met all specifications.
Modifier problem: By the age of 4, her father knew that she
would be an
engineer.
Revision: By the time his daughter was 4, her father knew
that she would be an engineer.

Unclear pronouns
Pronoun problem: We will study the terrain by soil
analysis and computer simulation before reaching a
decision on whether construction can take place here.
This will also enable us to . . .
Revision: This study will also enable us to . . .
Pronoun problem: Back in 1954, three researchers made
a series of discoveries about the unknown sources of
Barbours early notebooks. These prompted them to
further investigate . . .
Revision: These discoveries prompted the three to
further investigate . . .

Parallelism
Parallelism problem: The back-up system should
be efficient, should meet safety specifications,
and have complete reliability.
Revision possibilities:
The back-up system should be efficient, should
meet safety specifications, and should be
completely reliable.
or
The back-up system should be efficient, meet
safety specifications, and be completely reliable.

Fragments
Fragment: She decided to major in petroleum engineering. Even
though it would
take five years.
Revision: She decided to major in petroleum engineering even
though it would
take five years.
Nonproblem fragment: The Kinectimals video game lets players
pet a virtual
pet on their TV screen. But not actually groom their pets
remotely!
Revision: The Kinectimals video game lets players pet a virtual
pet on their TV
screenbut not actually groom their pets remotely!

Sexist Language
Sexist language: Every engineer should be at his workstation by 9
a.m.
Revision possibilities:
Every engineer should be at his or her workstation by 9 a.m.
Engineers should be at their workstations by 9 a.m.
Sexist language: An employee can expect a lot of challenges
during his
career here.
Revision: Employees can expect a lot of challenges during their
careers here.
Sexist language: Every technician must wear safety glasses when
he enters
the work area.
Revision: Technicians must wear safety glasses when entering the
work area.
Sexist language: Sarah is chairman of the new committee on
marketing

Abbreviations
Good uses of acronyms:
Then it goes into read-only memory (ROM).
To understand our billing process, you first need to know what a
British Thermal Unit (BTU) is.
an
an
an
an

MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime)


LED readout
SRU pin
ultrasonic frequency (but a UHF receiver)

We ordered a case of DVDs.


We werent satisfied with the last CD-ROMs performance.
or
We werent satisfied with the performance on the last CD-ROM.

Numbers
two transistors 232 stainless steel bolts
three linear actuators 12 capacitors
Make sure that the rim of the basket is exactly 10 feet from the
floor.
She presented three arguments to support her assertion.
There are now thousands of apps for the iPhone.
On Wikipedia, there are over three million articles in English.
or
On Wikipedia, there are over 3 million articles in English.
The IPET has 4000 members and 134 chapters in 6 regions.
The project calls for eight 6-foot boards.
2-1/2 liters 32-2/3 km

Units of Measurement
Notice the space between the number and the unit of
measurement:
70 ns 100 dB
12 V 34.62m
23 e/cm3 6Wb/m2
No periods:
212F (100C)
5.08cm (2 in)