International Women’s Day – Melba W. ‘Jerry’ Murray

It’s International Women’s Day and I don’t normally write this kind of things but couldn’t resist introducing you to someone I’ve been interested in of late…

I was recently reminded of a useful book that I was given as an undergrad to help writing my final year dissertation. We laughed for quite a while when this book was handed to us by our tutor; a dusty old cover with a black and white photo of a lady on the front entitled “Engineered Report Writing”. What good is this to us? Surely there’s something more modern we can read?

The book was written by Melba ‘Jerry’ Murray in 1969 and although difficult to find out much about her, she was an ‘industrial editor’ working with engineers from a major oil company. The book was developed to give guidance to engineers to help them communicate their work in a systematic and professional manner. She identified many of the engineers found written communication a challenge and that there needed to be a standard for report writing. Needless to say, the book was invaluable to us whilst writing our dissertations and we were wrong.

The book is as relevant today as it was then and her guidance for report writing helped sculpt our dissertations. I thought I’d share some of the tips she includes:

1. Get to the point. Tell your readers what you want from them in plain business language.

2. Answer, in sequence, any questions that your readers would ask in response to your main point.

3. Develop a reader-orientated topic outline.

4. Develop a main-point outline. In the outline, every heading you wrote for your reader orientated outline is followed by a sentence containing the main point for that section of the document.

5. Assemble illustrations that will support and explain your text. Send a set of illustrations, attached to a copy of your main-point outline, to everyone who will have to approve your document.

6. Arrange a pre-writing meeting to get approval for the content.

7. Compose the complete text.

8. Edit and polish the completed draft.


I don’t know too much about Melba Murray but she truly was a pioneer in Geoscience Communication and I’d love to know more. If anyone can add anything I’d be interested to hear about it.

Otherwise if you’d like to read more, some of her books are still available on Amazon!

Happy International Women’s Day!

– L



  1. Hi! This made me smile and bright back warm memories; Jerry was my Grandma and was the most important and influential person in my life. She was greatly appreciated by her students, family, and friends not only for her contributions to the writing field but also for the incredible person she was, and she would be proud to know she still has the appreciation of a new generation of students. She was always fond of her students and took interest their accomplishments both within the classroom as well as in their personal lives. She had a deep passion for world travel and had an immense appreciation for cultures across the globe, making friends everywhere she traveled and taught. Some of her other hobbies included cooking (the best food I’ve ever eaten), gardening, birdwatching, interior design, playing cards, and collecting memorabilia from her travels and students including works they had published. She truly was a spectacular soul, and I was devastated when we had tho say goodbye to her in April 2006. She lived a full life and was a beacon of strength and inspiration for many people. I’m proud to say I’m her granddaughter. Thank you for your article and your interest! Feel free tho send me an email if you like! 🙂

    • Chrissy, thank you for such a lovely response and for telling me more about Jerry. I’m so grateful for her help over the years and her book is, and always will be, my go-to-guide. It sounds like she had a fabulous life and touched many lives around her. I’m sure many other students will be indebted to her in the future as I am now. Thanks for getting in touch, best wishes, Lara.

      • Lara,

        Thank YOU for keeping her work alive, encouraging others to study and utilize it, and for your interest in her! I’m glad, as I’m confident she would be, that her books have served you well along your educational journey; education was very important to her and she was always particularly impressed with the science of geology. I send my very best to you as you endeavour to achieve your educational and Life dreams and goals, and I know my Grandma sends the very same from “the other side.” (She would have been disappointed that I didn’t proofread my first reply to you but thankfully she was compassionate, understanding, and forgiving!!)

        The photo of what appears to be you researching in front of a volcano is serenely exhilarating!

        Finally, I meant to mention in my first reply that to the best of my knowledge, her business partner and co-author, Hugh Hay-Roe, is still alive.

        Please let me know if you need or want any more information!

        Positive & Motivational Energy,

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