Liberal Arts Meet the Hard Sciences: Combining Communication with Science

I recently read Technically Speaking: Oral Communication for Engineers, Scientists, and Technical Personnelby Harold Weiss and James McGrath Jr. The book discusses ways members of the scientific community can become better oral and written communicators. As a communication arts major, I started to look back on all my English and communications classes that I had had with any sciene majors and how the hard sciences and liberal arts had interacted together. Mixing the liberal art of communication with hard sciences such as engineering has never been an easy task from what I have seen. They tend to resist each other in the same way two magnets do when you try to push the ends with the same polarity together.

But a growing trend is the idea of these two different disciplines working together to make everyone’s lives easier.

Everyone’s got a gift for something. For some, the gift is speaking. Others can write. And then there are those that can send rockets to the moon.

Then there are the tasks that people do not have much of a gift for. Not everyone was born to sing. Some cannot write. They just do not have the words. Others do not know much if anything about thermodynamics. I myself can write and use words pretty well. But I definitely am not gifted with a talent for any type of engineering. Basic concepts I do get when explanined to me. Go beyond that and I am out of my league. Luckily for me (and all of those others not born to be engineers) there are those gifted with a talent for engineering.

Many of those gifted with engineering talents often find themselves not exactly poet laureates. That is where someone like a technical communicator who is gifted with a talent for words and writing comes in. The game is changing. It’s not enough to be a groundbreaking engineer. You have to be able to talk about it to an audience who may or may not have any knowledge of engineering in an articulate fashion. And this is not always an easy task. It can be difficult to translate technical jargon into common everyday language. Enter technical communicators. They can use their gift of writing and words to help show off the talents of a great engineer in a way that people can more easily comprehend and thus appreciate more.

Everyone has gifts and it is important to share those gifts with others. Engineers and scientists are some of the most brilliant people in the world. Many of them do work that I cannot even begin to fully comprehend. But not everyone in the world can know and appreciate this because these same brilliant engineers and scientists just do not have a gift for oral and written communication. In steps technical communicators, who have a gift of words and writing. Why not let the gifts and talents of one discipline help show off those of another? Engineers and scientists need to share their brilliant work with the masses who may or may not be engineering experts. Technical communicators can help engineers and scientists accomplish this task. The engineers and scientists get to show the world their brilliant work. Technical communicators get to use their gift and writing and words to help. And people get information presented to them in a comprehensible manner.

So in the end, the formula reads:

Engineers and Scientists brilliant work + Technical Communicators writing and words = Brilliant work that can be understood and appreciated by everyone a.k.a Happy People.

Sounds like a winning formula to me.

– Jay Cavender

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