Engineers are a barrier to good communication

Engineers know a lot of important stuff. They know so much important stuff that when faced with what they don’t know they believe it to be unimportant. And since they have spent so little time learning how to communicate properly, or even learn basic grammar and spelling, it seems even less important to them. As a result, people who do know how to write and communicate are not important to them.

I work in an industry that makes it very difficult to do my job, which is create content that is engaging and understandable to a wide audience and there is one primary reason for that. It’s run by engineers.


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Let me say, at the outset, that I hold engineers in high regard. Their ability to understand how things work and how to make them work is nothing short of miraculous. There is a reason I feel that way because I lack basic numerancy. Numeracy is the ability to access, use, interpret, and communicate mathematical information and ideas, to engage in and manage mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life. In short, I have math anxiety, which would be disastrous if I decided to pursue a career in engineering. Instead, I chose to pursue excellence in the english language and the skill of communications.


And almost every engineer I have ever known lacks any appreciation for that decision, and most of them are just above what might be considered functional illiteracy. Literacy is understanding, evaluating, using, and engaging with written text to participate in the society, to achieve one's goals and to develop one's knowledge and potential. Very few engineers I have known are comfortable with written language.


Let me give you a recent example. A client of mine sent me a legal document he had prepared and sent to one of his customers. I had not gone more than two paragraphs of the four-page document before I had found a dozen grammatical, contextual and basic spelling errors. I suggested that before he sends out anything else that he either turn on his spelling and grammar checker or give it to me to proof. He responded:


“You are not my secretary and when I need a secretary I will hire one. I had this reviewed by several people and it is fine the way it is.”


The people he had it checked by were all on his engineering team.


That is not an unusual circumstance in my 40-year (plus) career.


I used to wonder why this is until I married a woman with training in learning disabilities. She has pointed out to me that the smarter someone is the more likely it is that they land somewhere on the scale that defines dyslexia. Since I’ve already pointed out that I believe engineers are very smart, I think you can see where this is going.


I will never question the science or math skills of an engineer, especially electrical engineers and computer scientists, but their writing skill is very questionable. Even MIT, back in 2002, admitted that bad writing skills causes most of the software they develop to fail, But it isn’t so much that they can’t write well, they just don’t think it is important.


Engineers know a lot of important stuff. They know so much important stuff that when faced with what they don’t know they believe it to be unimportant. And since they have spent so little time learning how to communicate properly, or even learn basic grammar and spelling, it seems even less important to them. As a result, people who do know how to write and communicate are not important to them.


This begs the question: If I am so frustrated with and industry that doesn't believe what I do is important, then why don’t I work with an industry that does?


The answer is simple. Footwasher Media understands that what the tech industries do is very important and helping the world to understand what they do is crucial to the future of mankind. When we find companies that know they lack the abilities we have, it makes for very satisfying work.