About this book
In October 1984, the weak writing in a scientific report made national news. The report, which outlined safety procedures during a nuclear attack, advised industrial workers "to don heavy clothes and immerse themselves in a large body of water." The logic behind this advice was sound: Water is a good absorber of heat, neutrons, and gamma rays. Unfortunately, the way the advice was worded was unclear. Was everyone supposed to come up for air? Be completely submerged?
The writing conveyed the wrong impression to the public. The report came across as saying "go jump in a lake" -- not the impression you want to give someone spending thousands of dollars to fund your research. Chances are that Dan Rather will not quote your documents on national television. Still, your writing is important.
On a personal level, your writing is the way in which people learn about your work. When you communicate, you receive credit for your work. When you do not communicate, or are too slow to communicate, the credit often goes to someone else. On a larger level, your writing and the writing of other scientists influence public policy about science and engineering.