Re: Seeking advice on English MA

Subject: Re: Seeking advice on English MA
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 17:56:29 -0700

Elna Tymes wrote:

> I've found that, in general, people with degrees in English tend to be somewhat
> more prickly about nitpicky items than those with degrees in other disciplines,
> and unless I'm hiring for an editing position (where I *want* someone who's
> nitpicky), I prefer people who have a somewhat broader perspective. Hence my
> hiring bias is slightly against English majors. An advanced degree in English
> proves to me only that the person had the funds necessary to support a variation
> on intellectual curiosity, not that they were inherently better communicators.

I used to divide English majors into two main camps: those who were
there because they felt they were vaguely artistic and didn't know what
else to do with themselves, and those who had a genuine interest and
love of the material they were working with.

The vaguely artistic ones are those who tend to nitpick; it's a way of
quieting their doubts and asserting their authority. While some of this
type grow out of it, or find a useful niche like copyediting, many of
them don't. They end up inflicting their pedanticness on another
generation of students, or transferring their pretensions to another
field like tech-writing. There, they exasparate, but also sometimes
provide a good source of unconscious humor when they attempt to import
their self-importance and often inflated diction to documentation.

Those who love the material made an active choice, rather than a passive
one. Their transcripts tend to show a broad range of interests, and
often they have made some attempt at serious writing. Often, they make
good teachers. If their attention veers toward tech-writing, they can
generally gain the technical background they lack without too much

Unfortunately, the poseurs are much more common. So, on the whole, maybe
Elna is right to be careful about English majors (even though I'm one

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com

"Rose bouquet, wedding band,
Their recipe for romance might have come out of a can."
- The Mollies, "I Don't Wanna Go to Bed"


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Re: Seeking advice on English MA: From: Bruce Byfield

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