What English majors can teach us

Subject: What English majors can teach us
From: Maaike Groenewege <mgr -at- MEDIASYS -dot- NL>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 09:41:58 +0100

*emerges from lurk mode*

Hi all, I've been watching you for a while, and I must say that techwhirl
has definitely added a new dimension to my life!
Steve Amidon wrote:
<<Since those who teach technical writing at universities often have
backgrounds in rhetoric, composition, literature, critical theory, and
studies, what can these disciplines bring to the technical writer?>>

I don't exactly know what a major in English looks like in the US, but back
here in the Netherlands, the contents of the study are quite diverse.
Benefits for technical writers therefore depend on what you choose to study.
After my two introductory years (which included literature, language
acquisition, linguistics and philology), I never touched a piece of
literature again, and focussed completely on linguistics.

Linguistics, again, offered a wide range of possibilities, so I ended up
taking classes in translation, phonology, computational linguistics and
artificial speech, but I wrote a thesis on the behaviour of the /r/ sound in
Old English, not because it would further my career as a tech writer, but
because I'm completely fond of /r/! *s*

Even though it may not seem obvious, I do profit from my studies; apart from
supplying me with the editorial and stylistic knowledge I need for writing a
manual, studying English has taught me to always think structurally, to
analyse, to ask myself (and others) why things happen. These, I think, are
indispensable characteristics for any tech writer.

I'd be very interested to know what English academic studies look like in
the US (please send mail directly to me, I'll summarise points relevant to
the list).

Maaike Groenewege
Tech Writer
Mediasystemen b.v., a Triple P company
The Netherlands

mgr -at- mediasys -dot- nl

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