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MMAE 232 Prose

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Matthew Spenko

on 17 January 2017

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Transcript of MMAE 232 Prose

Prose
Be Precise
Scientific words have specific meaning
"The last decade has seen a rapid development of new techniques for studying the enormously complex phenomena associated with the development of sparks and other gas discharges"
Connotation
Denotation = dictionary meaning
Denotation
sufficient, enough for what is required
Connotation= suggested meaning
Connotation
can mean both sufficient or insufficient depending on context
Neutral Word
inexpensive
Negative Connotation
Positive Connotation
cheap
cost-effective
unusual
simple
clear
obvious
simplistic
elegant
strange
novel
easily understood
"After recognizing some problems with the chair, I took subsequent corrective measures"
"After finding that slender legs, and not the seat back, were the main point of failure, I investigated solutions to lightweight the seat back and add more material to the legs"
Example: Precision does not mean overly detailed
Size is important, but accuracy is not
"The number of potential design interactions in our study is enormous. For example, the number of suitable materials for part X is 398,630 and the number of materials for Y is 450,000"
"The number of design interactions in our study is enormous. For example the numb er of possible suitable materials is more than 15 billion. "
Example: Choose appropriate level of detail based on audience and subject manner
"Operations at the plant stopped momentarily because the thermal storage charging system superheater attempeartor valve was replaced"
"Operations at the plant stopped for 1.5 hours so that a valve in the thermal storage system could be replaced"
Be Clear
conveying the information you want to convey
Don't write anything that you did not intend to write
"The goal of this study is to develop a commercialization strategy for solar energy systems by analyzing factors impeding early commercial projects (i.e. SOLAR ONE) and by identifying the potential actions that can facilitate the viability of the projects"
What words are needlessly complex?
Use Proper Tone
Using strong nouns and verbs
example of abstract nouns that weakens the writing:
"Experimental design is a method of efficiently performing a comparative analysis. Specifically, a design compares the main effects and the interactive effects of three variables on a final measured characteristic. The use of experimental design results in correct problem structuring, efficient experimentation, and data analysis leading to correct conclusions."
Desired: forthright: "direct and outspoken; straightforward and honest."
Undesired: casual, arrogant, obfuscated, or silly
Casual vs Formal
a lot of
much, many
but
however,
and
in addition
Arrogant vs Assertive
"
As is well known
, the use of gaseous insulation is becoming increasingly more widespread, with gases such as air and sulfur hexafluoride featuring prominently. There has been some discussion of using gas mixtures like nitrogen and sulfur hexafluoride, and
of course
nitrogen is the major constituent of air."
Avoid Silliness
"When you come up to speed, I will touch base with you and we'll knock heads together and figure out a solution"
Avoid Cliches
"I am in search of a meaningful growth position, and your company is a gateway to the highest professional levels and beyond..."
-sparks are not gas discharges
Adequate
Example: Sentences that lack precision are soon forgotten
streamline language
avoid ambiguity
"The goal of this study is to develop a commercialization strategy for solar energy systems by analyzing factors impeding early commercial projects (i.e. SOLAR ONE) and by identifying the potential actions that can facilitate the viability of the projects"
This study will consider why current solar energy
systems, such as Solar One, have not reached the
commercial stage and will find out what steps
we can take to make these systems commercial
Avoid stacking adjectives before nouns
Before
After
Solar One is a 10 megawatt solar
thermal electric central receiver
Barstow power pilot plant.
Solar One is a solar-powered pilot
plant located near Barstow, California. Solar One produces 10 megawatts of electricity by capturing
solar energy in a central receiver design.
Needless complexity on the sentence level
The goal of the work was to confirm the nature of electrical breakdown of nitrogen in uniform fields at high pressures and electrode gaps which approach those obtained in engineering practice, prior to the determination of the processes which set the criterion for breakdown in the above-mentioned gas in uniform and non-uniform fields of engineering significance.

At high pressures (760 torr) and typical electrode gap
distances (1 mm), the electrical breakdown of
nitrogen was studied in uniform fields.

Before
After (1st part of sentence)
Ambiguity = group of words that can have more than one meaning
On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it had completely disappeared
-vs-
On the second day the knee was better and on the third day the pain in the knee had completely disappeared
We wanted to reduce the vibration of the fan at the exhaust as the exhaust ducting was cracking
-vs-
We wanted to reduce the vibration of the fan at the exhaust because the exhaust ducting was cracking
Syntax causes ambiguity, especially with adverbs

Only I tested the Labrador for rabies yesterday.
I only tested the Labrador for rabies yesterday.
I tested the only Labrador for rabies yesterday.
I tested the Labrador only for rabies yesterday.
I tested the Labrador for rabies only yesterday.
Avoid Faulty Pronouns
Because the receiver presented the radiometer with a high flux environment, it was mounted in a silver-plated stainless steel container.
-vs-
Because the receiver presented the radiometer with a high flux environment, the radiometer was mounted in a silver-plated stainless steel container.
Proper Use of Commas
We examined neat methanol and ethanol and methanol and ethanol with 10% water.
-vs-
We examined four fuels: neat methanol, neat ethanol, methanol with 10% water, and ethanol with 10% water.
Use a tight verb form
is capable of -> can
is comprised of -> consists of
is used to detect -> detects
makes a decision ->decides
Scientific writing should be a mix of passive voice and active voice
Needlessly passive = allow inanimate object to act
Needlessly active = overuse of first person
A range of possibilities for passive voice
The oscilloscope displayed the voltage = OK
The oscilloscope measured the voltage = Ehh...
The oscilloscope calculated the voltage = not so good.
Good judicious use of first person
In that an effort to identify a specific control circuit responsible for the failure of the gear box was unsuccessful, it was determined appropriate to resurvey the collector field for torque tube damage.

Because we could not locate the control circuit responsible for the gear box failure, we resurveyed the collector field for torque tube damage.
Be Concise
What to cut
Redundancies
Writing zeroes
Needless adjectives and adverbs
Needless passive voice
Redundancies
absolute guarantee
my personal opinion
blended together
bright green in color
Bad scientific writing has lots of examples
already existing
alternative choices
at the present time
basic fundamentals
currently under way
completely eliminate
continue to remain
currently being
empty space
first began
had done previously
Writing "zeroes" = empty phrases that add nothing
It is my intent to show that...
as a matter of fact...
as is well known...
it is noteworthy...
the presence of...
Other phrases can be shortened substantially
at this point in time = now
at that point in time = then
has the ability to = can
has the potential to = can
in the event that = if
in the vicinity of = near
owing to the fact that = because
the question as to whether = whether
there is no doubt but that = no doubt

Example in sentence
Vibration measurements made in the course of the Titan flight test program were complicated by the presence of intense high-frequency excitation of the vehicle shell structure during the re-entry phase of the flight.
Vibration measurements made in the Titan flight were complicated by intense high-frequency excitation of the vehicle shell during re-entry.

Needless Adjectives
The objective of our work is to obtain experimental data
that can be used in conjunction with a comprehensive
chemical kinetics modeling study to generate a detailed
understanding of the fundamental processes that lead
to engine knock.

Our goal is to obtain experimental data that can be
used with a chemical kinetics model to explain the
processes that lead to engine knock.
Needless passive voice
It was then concluded that a second complete solar mirror field corrosion survey should be conducted in July to determine whether the tenfold annual corrosion rate projection was valid and to allow determination whether subsequent corrective measures would be effective in retarding corrosion propagation.

We decided to survey the solar mirror field a second time in July to see whether the corrosion rate would increase tenfold as projected and to see whether stowing the mirrors in a vertical position would slow the rate.

examples taken from The Craft of Scientific Writing - Michael Alley
introduced a new
mix together
never before
none at all
now at this time
period of time
private industry
separate entities
start out
still persists
whether or not
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