Hiring English majors

Subject: Hiring English majors
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 1997 08:36:05 -0600

The thing to remember about English majors is that there
are two kinds of students. (The ones who group the world
into two categories, and those who don't <Fe>.) There are
those who learn the fundamentals of good writing, and those
who can only learn (by imitation) to write in a pedantic
style.

The former group can become excellent technical writers
because, when you dig down to the bottom of all forms of
writing, you find that they have the same skeletons
supporting the meat. A novel, just like a user manual, must
be logically organized, follow an appropriate sequence, and
contain the necessary level of detail. It must be correct
in its details, self-consistent and consistent with the
larger universe around it, logical (unless the goal is
illogic), and expressed in the language that its readers
use and recognize. The devil is in the details: the voice,
the language, and the level and nature of the detail all
differ between novels and manuals. Nonetheless, the
differences should be easy for a good writer to learn on
the job.

In hiring a writer, the touchstone should always become
whether they're a good writer, not whether the person has a
degree in English (or Engineering, or Forestry, or...).
Good writers can adapt to different styles, even if it
takes a bit of work. Ask for a writing sample, not a
degree... judge the book, not its cover.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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