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!