Re: English major?

Subject: Re: English major?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 2003 19:11:53 -0800

Edwin Dahlquist wrote:

I agree. It is an interesting observation, and related to the perception of English majors as "frustrated poets or screenwriters" moonlighting as technical writers.
I don't think that the trouble is not knowing how to write so much as knowing only how to write for a certain audience, and for a certain reason.

If you survive as any type of professional writer, you generally learn to write for different audiences. Almost certainly, you absorb that clarity and precision are the goals you should strive for.

However, in a typical English Department, you are writing for only one audience: those who understand academicese. The goal is not clarity or precision, but to prove your membership in academia by showing your that you can write the language. If you stay in an English Department long enough, you can actually get quite adept at writing - but only at writing academicese.

Unfortunately, some English majors get fixiated on this goal to the point that they can't write any other way. That's really not surprising, because they've invested considerable effort into learning the acceptable style. After four years of undergraduate work and maybe another four to six years of graduate work, they start having a stake in writing academicese themselves.

In my experience, those who are capable of learning otherwise either have always disliked the academic style, or have some experience of othe sorts of writing. Either way, they've had a chance to realize that the academic style is only one alternative, and that its goals are not always the best.

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

"Bright morning star a-rising,
New day's a-breaking in my soul."
- American Traditional



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English major?: From: Edwin Dahlquist

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