This week’s newsletter column is a follow-up to my previous column on “How To FIND A Job” (see link below). My argument in that discussion emphasized the importance of communicating effectively. To be clear, strong communication skills (oral and written) are crucial for those working in plants and facilities. As with my earlier column, here I am continuing to vent about the proper use of English.
Among other things, if you want to be an effective communicator, watch out for words that sound somewhat similar. “Silicon” and “silicone” may be related, but they’re certainly not the same substance. A recent editorial asserted that “we must insure the money is spent wisely.” The writer probably didn’t/doesn’t know the difference between ensure and insure and would be insulted if someone were to point it out. That example reminds me of one of my old bosses who had owned rental property. Years ago, he sent a report to headquarters that expounded on his and the corporation’s tenants. He meant to reinforce our employer’s tenets but was moved to another job when his own tenets were found lacking in profundity. (I suppose, however, that his tenants continued to dwell in his rental house.)
BEWARE GRAMMAR-CHECKING SOFTWARE
AND CHANGING LANGUAGE
I’m suspicious of computers. Sometimes they let me down (although my son has accused me of wearing welding gloves when I type). Believe me, it’s not always my fault when the machine malfunctions. Likewise, I will concede that it may not always be your fault when you get garbled text on the screen.
That said, here’s a radical proposal: Use available grammar-checking types of computer software only as your very last resort. Some software programs may not be able to tell us whether, for example, we should have typed “valve” instead of “value;” “spell” instead of “spill;” “him” instead of “hum;” “dim” instead of “dam;” “comportment” instead of “compartment;” or “reel” instead of “real.” (Granted, most programs will warn us if we type “rael”).
Alas, it’s evident that language is changing: Sometimes we’re being told that right is wrong, and wrong is right. But none of that should prevent engineers from learning how to express themselves (not theirselves) with precision.
In short, don’t treat language with contempt. Moreover, don’t lose your job because of loose talk or failing to develop the ability to express yourself accurately and effectively. Keep verbal and typographical errors to a minimum and learn to despise them. Make sound and proper communication one of your most important career objectives. Good communicators will always enjoy a far better probability of finding and maintaining employment than the non-caring rest of the bunch.
QUOTING MARK TWAIN (REMEMBER HIM?)
It’ is no exaggeration: Over the past four decades, I’ve met and spoken with hundreds of engineers who claimed that matters were out of their hands, and they couldn’t influence decisions impacting them and/or their respective employers. That’s just rubbish.
We can elect to do all types of things, including watch worthless TV programs that are often aimed at the least-common viewer denominator. Alternatively (not alternately), we can decide to read a good book to upgrade our language skills, or a technical text to increase our knowledge base. Consulting the material in a book’s bibliography (not the biography)wouldn’t hurt, either.
Take a minute to consider the following quote from the author Mark Twain. Some engineers would be wise to remember these words: “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.” Mark Twain was a saint who anticipated my lament.TRR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heinz Bloch’s long professional career included assignments as Exxon Chemical’s Regional Machinery Specialist for the United States. A recognized subject-matter-expert on plant equipment and failure avoidance, he is the author of numerous books and articles, and continues to present at technical conferences around the world. Bloch holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and is an ASME Life Fellow. These days, he’s based near Houston, TX.
Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management, professional development