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(SeattlePI)   English majors' communication skills in demand. Oh fries, fries, wherefore art thou fries?   ( divider line
    More: Unlikely  
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7792 clicks; posted to Main » on 06 Jun 2006 at 9:53 AM (11 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

208 Comments     (+0 »)

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2006-06-06 10:18:02 AM  
Occams_Electric_Razor: The point of going to college is to teach you how to think.

Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider
Girls go to college to practice their swallowage
2006-06-06 10:18:02 AM  
Hi. My name's gimpel, and I'm an English Major.

Seriously though. I have progressed very rapidly through the ranks of software companies--I am a director now--in large part due to my ability to communicate clearly and succinctly.

I don't know if I would ever recommend taking English as a major, but it worked very well for me. I like my job, and I am compensated very well.
2006-06-06 10:18:35 AM  
I'm an English major, I kind of hate it. I want to get into the school of education for english and math, if I don't I'll be stuck with just an english BA

/can't handle science
2006-06-06 10:18:43 AM  
Oddly enough, I also happen to work in IT.

I'm an English major working in IT as well.

I stumbled into my (crazy huge) university's IT department while finishing my graduate work. Not a career move I had planned on at all, but I found out I liked it much better than academia. It paid far better than adjunct teaching--more like assistant prof salary to start. Human Resources has all different (that is, far more generous and lax) rules for IT than for the rest of the university. And no shiatty students to deal with. Better deal all around.
2006-06-06 10:18:45 AM  
quijano: Advice to all English/humanities majors: if you want job security, don't look at teaching, journalism, or any other traditional career; anyone there can do what you do. Instead, work in IT--the ability to write a grammatical sentence will make you indispensable through any number of cutbacks and layoffs.

As an English major who works in IT, I have to agree with this. Just about every interviewer I spoke with loved the fact that I had computer skills AND writing skills. While I was in college I loved my English classes but hated my engineering classes, none of which helped me at my current job as much as being a techie did.

/Me fail English? That's unpossible!
2006-06-06 10:19:16 AM  

My favorite is the idea that most layman have that throwing words at a problem makes one look more intelligent. Until you read the words and find that they are connected poorly, and the writer obviously did not comprehend the subtle nuances of word choice. They'll use a $.20 word, and not realize that it doesn't mean quite what they thought it meant.

I also maintain "Evil Twin Skippy's shiatlist". (Linq. It is a database of journalism cliches that have no place in professional writing.
2006-06-06 10:20:32 AM  
I actually once attempted to write a novel in college back when I was 20-21 years old. It was a horror/fiction/post-apocalypse novel, first person POV, dealing with a lot of different themes like drug addiction, vigilanteism, sociopathy, the "social contract", torture, racism, etc.

After writing 2/3 of it I realized it was good but not great. It had the potential to be great but I needed some kind of original literary format and I needed to hone my skills as a writer, especially in the area of imagery and that "putting you there in his shoes" sense. I still have it floating around on my computer and I eventually intend to finish it but I've lost much of the depression and hopelessness that fueled my writing.
2006-06-06 10:21:11 AM  
Government and Corporations are busily hiring paid shills.
2006-06-06 10:21:19 AM  
I do question the job application of the major-- I think anyone can learn to write well just by reading a lot and analyzing critically what you read. I would say though, that if English really does interest you then you should go for it, especially if your main goal is to become a writer. But to be safe at least make it part of a double major.
2006-06-06 10:21:53 AM  
SAMPSON: Nay, as they dare. I will bite my hamburger at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they eat it.
ABRAHAM: Do you bite your hamburger at us, sir?
SAMPSON: I do bite my hamburger, sir.
ABRAHAM: Do you bite your hamburger at us, sir?
SAMPSON: [Aside to GREGORY] Is the day manager of our side, if I say ay?
SAMPSON: No, sir, I do not bite my hamburger at you, sir, but I bite my hamburger, sir.
GREGORY: Do you spit in our Cokes, sir?
ABRAHAM: Spit in your Cokes sir! no, sir.
SAMPSON: If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve over 60 billion good a men as you.
ABRAHAM: No better.
SAMPSON: Well, sir.
GREGORY: Say 'better:' here comes one of my day manager's kinsmen.
2006-06-06 10:22:06 AM  
Seriously, English majors, just learn to be flexible. Yeah, the job market can suck a bit, but if you can communicate effectively, you have a use. Honestly, I wouldn't just be an English major, even though I love to read. Pick a concentration that really focuses on writing and communicating, not just analytical papers.

Business and Technical or Journalism concentrations provide so much experience communicating effectively and efficiently. During my interview I was able to use those points in my favor, showing that I was good at working under tight deadlines (Journalism), good at editing (Journalism and EBT), and good at being consise (Journalism and EBT again).

Be imaginative. An English major can go into PR, marketing, publications, editing, etc.

Check out for ideas.
2006-06-06 10:23:44 AM  
A guy here at work once read a typo about communications between devices in their "naive language" (should have been native language). He has used the term "naive language" for years now. Sometimes is causes puzzled looks on the audience. Mr. Malaprop?
2006-06-06 10:23:55 AM  
Evil Twin Skippy: Link pwned by the filter! I made a guess & edited the URL manually - includes some of my peeves.

Add this: politicians who speak of 'priorizing'. The word is 'prioritize'. Le sigh.
2006-06-06 10:24:27 AM  
I don't know about you guys, but I think I write very well (and have been told so), and I never took more than the everyone-in-the-school-must-take-it-so-STFU-about-your-AP-credits writing class in my freshman year of college. That class was further reinforcement of good writing practices, but basically everything I knew about spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and proper formats for different kinds of writing I learned in junior high and high school. I'm 100% sure I was the only one paying attention a lot of the time, but if people have to major in English to learn how to write coherent sentences, they're wasting a lot of time and money on something they should have learned in 7th grade. For free.
2006-06-06 10:24:57 AM  
Cake Hunter: SAMPSON: If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve over 60 billion good a men as you.

That was all great but this is my favorite part.
2006-06-06 10:25:19 AM  

I can relate to you. I was a Social Work major before settling in on History as my undergrad major. Have to say, absolutely love it. Going to do the same route as you, go for my masters and then to my PhD. Very few people tend to realize that History is damn close to an English degree. Ive had to write so many papers this quarter I think im going to lose my mind.

Oh, and props to Neuro-Linguistic Programming. While a lot of it is absolute crap in my opinion, Frogs Into Princes is an interesting book.

/Just wrote a paper on Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children as an "anti-war" statement
//Really like German Cultural/Intellectual History
///Not liking the Stuart England final later today
2006-06-06 10:25:19 AM  
The only thing I learned, in my quest for an English degree, is that the average college English teacher is so dumbfounded when faced with any written piece of even remote creativity or coherent intelligence that you're virtually guaranteed an A.

Although, given the growing mediocrity of college students, this really shouldn't surprise me.

Does no one teach English any more? Actual English. Spelling, grammar, punctuation. Everyone has to sit through a half-assed presentation of random Shakespeare and some minority literature at any given year of middle or high school, but when time comes to write a report on it, they get no help whatsoever.

Being an English teacher would just be an exercise in futility.
2006-06-06 10:26:13 AM  
Hi. My name's gimpel, and I'm an English Major.

Crowd of downtrodden English majors: "Hi Gimpel".

Gimpel: I've been conjugating verbs since I was fourteen. At first it was just a irregulars behind the bike sheds, but before I knew it I was doing subjunctive declensions, past participles and critical analysis of post modern French poetry. ...starts whimpering

Anyone wanna take it from here?
2006-06-06 10:27:03 AM  
Evil Twin Skippy: My favorite is the idea that most layman have that throwing words at a problem makes one look more intelligent. Until you read the words and find that they are connected poorly, and the writer obviously did not comprehend the subtle nuances of word choice.

My roommate used to put the word "catharsis" in every one of his papers, ALL OF THEM, whether the word was used properly or not. Most of his stuff was uninspired tripe (and it still is now that he's moved to being a History major), but every once in a while you'll come across a well-written, concise little gem of a paper with his name and an "A" written in big red lettering on it. Those are actually papers written by me, for him, after being paid money because he had procrastinated and needed me to write him something spectacular in less than 2 hours.
2006-06-06 10:27:43 AM  
UDel_Kitty: consise

Of course, that doesn't extend to internet message boards where I don't preview and check my own spelling...feh.
2006-06-06 10:27:55 AM  
A serious problem that many employers have is that the college graduates they hire frequently do not have college- or university-level organizational or communications skills.

These do not have to be acquired through majoring in English, but they must be acquired through doing!

This is the dreary note on college life. You have to learn those pesky communications skills. And the research paper is the best way to acquire them.

An English major may be of value because it almost always requires the major to acquire those skills. Majors like sociology and social work are something else.
2006-06-06 10:28:42 AM  
"Everyone can read and write, but not everyone can communicate," Lemire said.

Begs to differ:
2006-06-06 10:29:13 AM  
Dynascape: Really like German Cultural/Intellectual History

You would love my professor, Dr. Citino. He's fluent in German. Right now I'm taking "The German Way of War" and we're studying a lot of Clausewitz, Moltke, and Frederick the Great.
2006-06-06 10:29:28 AM  
For both of you reading this far in the comments... "wherefore" doesn't mean "where". It means "why".

When Juliet is asking "Wherefore art thou Romeo?", she's asking why the guy she's crushing over has to be a Montigue, her family's sworn enemy.
2006-06-06 10:29:41 AM  

2006-06-06 10:29:43 AM  
Seldom is the question asked, is English majors really that good at communication?
2006-06-06 10:30:17 AM  

Nicely done!
2006-06-06 10:30:36 AM  
Well, my sister graduated from college with degrees in English and Secondary Education...and worked for Southwest Airlines before settling into a library gig.

/Dingst, fries art done.
2006-06-06 10:30:51 AM  

Fixed. Thank root for soft links in Unix.
2006-06-06 10:32:12 AM  
Lollipop165, Occams_Electric_Razor

Some people go to college to learn to think, some people go to college to get a job, and some people go to college to consume massive amounts of drugs and alcohol.
2006-06-06 10:32:29 AM  
whenIsayGO: but if people have to major in English to learn how to write coherent sentences, they're wasting a lot of time and money on something they should have learned in 7th grade. For free.

An English degree is more about creative writing and criticism of literature and poetry than grammar.
2006-06-06 10:33:06 AM  
If you're an enlish major looking for a challenging position, you may to consider applying at the whitehouse. I hear they're trying to teach a chimp to talk in complete sentences.

"Double, double toil and trouble.
French fries burn and nuggets bubble."
2006-06-06 10:33:23 AM  
Being an English teacher would just be an exercise in futility.

No. I am convinced that English teachers are there to create more English teachers.

Only you can break this vicious cycle.
2006-06-06 10:33:36 AM  

I used to love handing in a 2 page paper, double-spaced an getting an a+. Meanwhile folks who where handing in 20 pagers were getting Cs and Ds. They would look at me like I was sucking off the prof or something.
2006-06-06 10:34:12 AM  
Lollipop165: People don't spend over $100,000/year to be taught how to think. The do that to get jobs. Thinking is just a nice little side note :-)

Merely knowing raw knowledge about the law, medicine, English, or programming is absolutely useless if you don't know how to think in a way that makes that knowledge actually useful. I see the purpose of college as a minority of accumulating raw knowledge with a majority of training your mind to actually apply it.

After all, given that nearly all raw knowledge is easily accessible, knowing it by rote isn't exactly something that's required anymore.
2006-06-06 10:34:43 AM  
I think it's hopeless. The prez says that people who come here (to the US) should learn to speak English, but he can't.

I always like the announcement on Continental Airlines that "we'll be taking off momentarily."

Another favorite is "very unique." How "one of a kind"can it be?

Then there's "10 times smaller..." What if it's 1 time smaller, how big would that be? Or 1 time slower? Or 1 time closer? I call gibberish.
2006-06-06 10:34:52 AM  
Or to riff: Seldom is the question asked: Is English majors really that well at communication?
2006-06-06 10:35:33 AM  
I took my english degree to Major League Baseball and got in with the PR department of a Major League club last year. I have since parlayed that gig into a potential spot in ESPN's research department.

/Never worked at McDonald's.
//No, I would not like fries with that.
///English majors of the world, unite!
2006-06-06 10:36:08 AM  
Where in IT would an English major work?

Also, isn't IT one of the most unstable professions a person can have, due to outsourcing and layoffs?
2006-06-06 10:37:47 AM  
In the days of globalization and outsourcing, many high-tech career options in the US are increasingly in jeoprody.

But the ability to transcribe difficult concepts into plain English is a talent that can't easily be outsourced to non-English speakers.

Therefore, I conclude that well-honed communication skills will be one of the few areas of growth in technology among native English speakers. One does not have to have an English degree to have well-honed communication skills, but it helps to get the foot in the door.
2006-06-06 10:37:59 AM  
I keep reading that English Majors should go into journalism... although our local newspapers are *not* up to the standards of the New York Times, or the Globe & Mail, I cannot believe that they employ either Journalists or English Majors. I froth at the mouth when I see the mutilation of the English language; newspapers are available to everyone, and should safeguard the proper usage of the language.

/my kids are familiar with this rant
2006-06-06 10:38:06 AM  
Friends, Americans. Consumers, lend me your drive-in speaker.
2006-06-06 10:38:57 AM  

Being able to communicate effectively is important. But so is not being a hippie dippie artsy fartsy retard. So....middle ground, people, middle ground.
2006-06-06 10:39:47 AM  
daisyheadmaisy: Majoring in English is my biggest regret.

2006-06-06 10:40:20 AM  
Johnny Stat Box

I took my english degree to Major League Baseball and got in with the PR department of a Major League club last year. I have since parlayed that gig into a potential spot in ESPN's research department.

Nice, but I'd be interested to hear more.. How hard was it to get the job? Did you get it through connections or applying like any other job?
2006-06-06 10:41:08 AM  
Wake up farkers!! There is nothing marketable about an English major. NOTHING.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I parlayed mine from a tech writing job to a job with a software company. Then I started my own consulting company working with the software from job #2.

By the time you leave college, you should have learned:

1) How to think rationally

2) How to interpret information and use it

3) the ins and outs of your major.

If you limit yourself to careers that are direct feeders from your degree, you're missing the point. The idea of college isn't simply to teach you to step in to that first job, it's to prepare you to think and function at a higher level.
2006-06-06 10:42:01 AM  
I wouldn't want to work for a moron that thinks english major = communications skills
2006-06-06 10:44:43 AM  
BA English, MA tech writing. I make pretty good money and work with nifty people and technology. The only downside is people assuming that I like debugging their bizarre MS Word problems (RTFM, guys).
2006-06-06 10:44:56 AM  
You sir have my everlasting gratitude and will of course owe me a new keyboard :)
2006-06-06 10:45:14 AM  
Is that real `English' or that `Yanklish' that y'all dun spek durn thar in Merikuh.

Could someone please explain to me why so many people outside the US seem to think the standard American accent is "southern yokel"
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