Writing and Thinking (was English Majors)

Subject: Writing and Thinking (was English Majors)
From: Lisa Ann Miller <lisamil -at- ANET-STL -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 09:07:05 -0600

TECHWR-Ls -

As an English Major, I feel I should pipe in here with a couple of points.
First, a well rounded education is never wasted. By well rounded I mean
an education that teaches fundamentals of art, anthropology, history, math,
philosophy - all subjects of a liberal arts education. My English degree,
in retrospect, may have been even too focused, but it did touch on all of
subjects. As an undergraduate, I became a "jack" of many trades.
Currently, I am a Master's student and shall "master" the trade of
English.

Second, what has this to do with Technical Writing? I feel that my
degree(s) has given me the ability to think clearly, form opinions based on
research, and logically communicate my conclusions. In other words, I have
been trained to read material then present and support my evaluations of
that material to my peers and teachers. In order to do this effectively, I
have been taught to research a subject, determine an hypothesis, construct
an argument, test the hypothesis, and communicate my conclusion.

This generic formula allows me to communicate on a wide variety of
subjects, regardless of my knowledge. You don't need be an expert in the
subject; you just need to know the steps of constructing logical arguments.
(A better degree in thinking might have been philosophy, but I didn't know
it at the time.) This is precisely what technical writing is all about.
We research, assume, test, and communicate. We do this over a broad range
of industries.

This does not diminish the need to apprentice in Technical Writing, to
learn the trade itself. I firmly believe in professional development -
going to seminars, keeping my skills up to date, meeting and talking to the
mentor of our profession, reading the latest ideas that make our writing
more effective. We should not confuse the apprenticeship with the
educational foundation.

The larger business consulting firms know this. (Take a look at who the
are recruiting. I also seem to remember articles to this effect in
business magazines of late.) They hire consultants with broad business
degrees such as MBAs, not necessarily specific degrees such as accounting
or sales. There has been a lot of writing in recent years about businesses
not wanting a person trained in one job aspect, but many. Additionally,
over a life-time of work most people will have several careers. So again,
a liberal education serves as a firm foundation.

A final thought on English and Technical Writing. If there are recruiters
(and I know there are) on this list, the field of English students is ripe
for the picking in terms of recruitment as Technical Writers.

Lisa Miller
Technical Writer
St. Louis, Missouri
lisamil -at- anet-stl -dot- com


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