If you tell someone you’re an engineer, you might then get the feeling that they think that they know a lot about you already. Engineers—like people in many careers—have to contend with all sorts of presumptions about their personalities. That’s one reason why #ilooklikeanengineer was popular and important. That movement emphasized that women are engineers, but the presumptions can work against everyone. Engineers are not just (and not always) introverted and analytical. That’s just a stereotype. Engineers are all sorts of other ways, too: active, athletic, enthusiastic, assertive, creative, instinctive, chatty, disorganized, artistic, and friendly–and they have as many individual interests as there are individuals.
What this means is that you are always contending with a stereotype. If you are aware of it—and how could you not be?—you are always deciding if you want to conform to peoples’ assumptions or not. And you probably make different decisions in different situations. It’s sometimes easier just to let others think you are brilliant and quiet: they are giving you the benefit of the doubt, and you don’t have to explain yourself. Other times, it’s convenient and even maybe fun to break the stereotype: surprising people can get their attention. If you think back, you can probably think of many examples of yourself doing one or the other.
And here’s why I said all this: the same goes for genres of writing. Each type or category of text shares characteristics. Academic journal articles in electrical engineering are (1) about EE, (2) written in formal English using some language only known to people in the specific field (but not exclusively this type of language), and (3) follows a certain structure (AIMRaD, and then similar structures within each of those sections). If you were to look at a single journal article, you could define that journal’s genre of academic writing even more specifically. And then you could mimic it, structuring your own ideas in an article that fit the expectations of that journal.
But then think about your identity again. How much do you want to conform? If you looked at several articles in that journal, you would notice a range of acceptable writing choices. You would see characteristics they all share (posing a problem, giving a result, etc.) and you’d see variation (in how much context is offered, perhaps, or how many field-specific terms are defined, or the clarity of the figures and captions). Seeing this variation enables you to stop just mimicking a genre. Instead, you can take into account your own goals and values, and then make the decisions that allow you to stay within the general range of the journal’s expectations but still express yourself as you choose.