Engineering Effective Communication

One of the challenges in engineering is effective communication at each stage of the design process.  From initial concept discussions to development of product documentation and technical manuals, expressing complex ideas with clarity, organization, and purposeful language is required.

Over on Techbites, Clive Maxfield has put together a fantastic mini-series of articles entitled “Writing 4 Engineers“.  Topics include grammar and punctuation, the proper use of often-misused words, and many others.

Another element of effective communication is word choice — not just in the sense of proper grammatical usage, but using the word that best conveys the desired meaning.  Having a broader vocabulary can allow an engineer to more accurately express ideas, both written and verbal.

A richer vocabulary can be gleaned by reading, enjoying crossword puzzles, and conversing with others.  Another method is to enlist the help of one of the myriad of online flash card applications designed for memorization.  However many apps are directed for students, and not for professionals that no longer have vocabulary assignments.  For a less on-your-own approach, VerbaLearn can help.

VerbaLearn provides a great resource for learning vocabulary at your own pace.  The free version provides an automatic study list builder and online review of your study list, where words are learned in context.

VerbaLearn Plus adds, for a fee, the capability to manually select words in your study list, and a variety of additional study options like MP3 study lists, fill-in-the-blank game, flashcards, and crossword puzzles.

And for a novel twist, you can even provide yourself or others with monetary incentive to build a better vocabulary.  The VerbaLearn V2E Cash Back option (re)pays for successfully learning the words in a course, and provides the features found in the Plus version.  With V2E Cash Back, parents or grandparents could sponsor/reward a student (or worthy engineer) for working to expand his vocabulary.  Quite an interesting model!

VerbaLearn sign-up was easy, and after building my study list I found the learning method effective and enjoyable.  One limitation with VerbaLearn seems to be their mobile site.  I contacted VerbaLearn support in July and learned the mobile site is undergoing changes.  However, with a strong desktop offering, VerbaLearn is definitely worth a look.

Have a thirst for language?  What vocabulary boosting tools do you use?

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