Biosketch: I am an English Language and Linguistics specialist, working with engineering students and academics. I design and teach short courses and workshops to resolve writing issues of various kinds. I also work with practising engineers in the workplace on a similar ( but ad hoc) basis, although sometimes they ask me to do the writing for them or to offer editorial advice.

A general interest of mine is how people communicate, especially in workplaces, both commercial and academic. I am interested in both spoken and written communication, although, inevitably, I have been drawn towards writing, because this where the greatest need and demand for my services lie.

My long-held interest in what engineers say and write motivated me to focus on engineering language and documents in my book, entitled ‘Professional Communication in Engineering’ (Palgrave Macmillan - ). In the commercial workplace, I have been asked to deal with a variety of language and communication problems, with bid writing a major preoccupation there.

My PhD was based on engineers working at British Aerospace (now BAE Systems), followed by a long stint as in-house researcher at UTC Aerospace Systems, now part of Collins Aerospace. I have also run writing workshops, mainly proposal and executive summary writing, for engineers at BAE Systems and Babcock International Group, Royal Devonport Dockyard.

Working with engineering colleagues on their research submission for the Research Excellence Framework 2014 ( a novel experience for me, markedly different from the commercial workplace, but no less demanding or interesting. The academics were scientists, engineers and mathematicians, many of whom were most reluctant writers. Through our joint efforts, however, they made a significant improvement on their previous (woeful) research ranking, winning much needed research funding.

I find my work hugely satisfying, which is why I have just started working on a second edition of my book.


PhD, MA (App Ling), RSA Dip TEFLA, BEd, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

PhD details: University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, 2002, ‘Engineering Texts: a study of a community of aerospace engineers, their writing practices and technical proposals’. Link to university’s e-theses repository:

Teaching career overview:

2008 to now: part-time teaching, at the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom.

2005 - 2008: Senior Lecturer at the University College of St Mark and St John.

1993 – 2005: Subject Head/Programme Leader for English Language and Linguistics at the University College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, UK

1990 – 1993 Senior Lecturer, International Education Centre, College of St Mark and St John

1986 - 89 Director - General English Unit, The British Council Singapore

1982 - 86 Lecturer, English Language Department, Singapore Polytechnic

Main workshops and consultancy work since leaving Singapore


Consultant and workshop facilitator for engineer managers, Babcock International.


Writing workshop at the IEEE International Professional Communication conference at the University of Vancouver: ‘Using a Reverse-Engineering Approach to Writing in the Workplace’, July 2013.

2012 - 13

Consultant and writing co-ordinator, working with the engineering research group leader at the University of Plymouth to improve on a previous submission. We aimed to raise the quality of academics’ writing for the group’s written submission to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (U.K-wide research assessment exercise). The aim was achieved and research funding awarded.

1994 - 2018

A researcher-in-residence, investigating how people talk and write at work, focusing on business and technical communication. This was an ethnographically-based project, carried out at Atlantic Inertial Systems (used to be BAE Systems in Plymouth), now part of UTC Aerospace/Collins Aerospace.

2008 - 2010

Proposal writer and ‘polisher’ for Babcock Marine, Plymouth (Devonport Royal Dockyard): reviewing collaborative writing efforts; editing/rewriting contributions to proposal documents made by (engineer) members of bid teams. Worked on two large proposals.


Earned £29,000 for my institution, University College Plymouth St Mark and St John, by running short proposal writing courses for engineers at Babcock Marine in Plymouth. This activity was ancillary to my main work on the BA (Hons) programme.

2004 - 2006

Knowledge Exchange South West (KESW)-related projects on the topic ‘Advanced Writing Skills’, working with BAE Systems, Devonport Royal Dockyard (DML), and those working for DML affiliates, to improve company documentation, particularly bid writing/engineering proposals. This work attracted KESW funding.

2003 - 5

Short courses, ad hoc lectures, consultancy work and research into how engineers communicate, based at BAE SYSTEMS in Plymouth. Some of this activity was KESW-related.

1997 - 2007

Collaborative research with colleagues at the University of Plymouth, investigating the writing needs of engineering students. Intermittent, informal arrangement.

1995 - 6

Consultancy work with research and training departments at BAE SYSTEMS, Plymouth, mainly focusing on training needs of BAE SYSTEMS engineers in the area of proposal writing. Ran three 3-day courses on writing executive summaries for engineering proposals, and a 50-hour course on English Language for Engineers. This brought c.£18,000 into the college.


Consultancy visit to Moldova for an institutional-link project involving three institutions (EU-funded pre-JEP), to run workshops for university lecturers and conduct a training needs analysis.


European Union-funded PHARE consultancy at CETT (Centre for English Teacher Training), Jozsef Attila University, Szeged, Hungary. One month.

1990 - 3

English for Business Purposes and English for Special Purposes in-service teacher training courses (two-week courses, one each year over three years) for lecturers at the Fachhochsschule fuer Wirtschaft und Technik, a University of Applied Sciences in (what was still regarded then as) East Berlin. Under the auspices of the British Council. Conducted with another teacher trainer.


Professional membership

IEEE and IEEE Professional Communication Society; BAAL (British Association of Applied Linguistics)


Conference Papers

Publications/IEEE Conference Proceedings

Customer-Focused Documents:- Engineers’ Use of Visuals to Support Product Descriptions’, in Proceedings of the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, University of Central Florida, U.S.A., 8 – 10 October 2012.

‘A Centennial Review of Style and Contents in the PROCEEDINGS of the IEEE’, Proceedings of the IEEE, May 13th 2012 ( - pdf version is best)

‘After the Montreal Protocol: the impact of “cradle-to-grave” issues on proposal writing’, in Proceedings of the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, University of Cincinnati, U.S.A., 17 – 19 October 2011.

‘ “More than monkey see, monkey do”: aspects of language use in engineering and manufacturing process web pages’, in Proceedings of the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands, 7 – 9 July 2010.

‘The Information Structure of Engineering Proposals: suggesting a taxonomy of information components for competitive proposals and a potential metric for information content’, in Proceedings of the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, Concordia University, Montreal, 13–16 July 2008.

‘Proposal Writing and Persuasion’, Communicator: The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators Journal, Winter 2007

Sales, H.E. (2006) Professional Communication in Engineering. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan.

Staying afloat: three perspectives on classroom language learning, The Teacher Trainer, Vol 15 No 3, 2001 (written in collaboration with Michael Hall)

‘Moody modals: (mis)interpretations of shall and will in engineering specifications’, in Heffer, C. and H. Sauntson (eds) (2001)

Four Days of CALLTEC (Computer Assisted Language Learning Teacher Education Course) in Singapore, MUSELI News, December 1989.

Quantity Surveying Reports, ELR Journal - Genre Analysis and E.S.P., Vol. 1, 1987, English Language Research, University of Birmingham.

Other conference papers/Lectures and workshops

‘The information structure of engineering proposals’, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 29th September 2009

‘What makes a proposal persuasive?’, Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC) Conference, Nottingham, 2008

‘Texts that matter at work – ethnographically-derived text categories in commercial organisations’. AILA - 15th World Congress of Applied Linguistics in Essen, 24 - 29 August 2008

 ‘Stodgy Writing in the Workplace’, British Association of Applied Linguistics Conference Proceedings, University of Edinburgh, September 2007

‘Objectivity versus persuasion in technical writing’, the British Association of Applied Linguistics conference at University College Cork, 7 - 9 September, 2006

‘Text Analysis - choosing the right path’, post-graduate conference, Birmingham University, September 2001

‘A dark horse document: the logbook’, post-graduate conference, Birmingham University, September 2000

‘Data collecting – using email to conduct in-company surveys’, post-graduate conference, Birmingham University, September 1999

‘Moody Modals and why they get engineers down’, post-graduate conference, Birmingham University, September 1998

‘L1 and L2 Academic Writing - Common Problems’, Regional English Language Centre Conference, Singapore, 1997

‘Straw Men Flying Kites - A team building approach to text construction and written composition’, British Association of Applied Linguistics conference, Birmingham, 1997.