The English Major

Thanks to the fact that my school doesn't have a spring break, I only have finals week left and then I'm free from all cares and worries until September. Except for that pesky business of raising my four kids and taking care of the house, the bills, and all the other mundane tasks of life, of course.

So I've been giving a lot of thought this year to whether I should continue to pursue an English degree or if I want to do something practical instead. It's been said that English is a fairly worthless major when it comes to getting a job, but I'm doing the editing minor to get job training, and what I really want to do is write books anyway, not get a job. To be perfectly honest, though, I've been wondering how reading a lot of very old literature and speculating about what the author was trying to say will help me write books for today's market.

Something my literature professor said last week really struck a chord with me, though. She was talking about authors framing their stories in certain ways in order to make connections with past literature, juxtapose certain concepts against others, allude to certain things, etc. It made me realize that maybe studying old literature can have a positive impact on my writing, even if I'm not using that literature as a model for how to write my own stories.

For instance, an author we studied this year was Alexander Pope. He wrote what is called a "mock epic," in which he used all the literary devices of an epic poem, but he was writing on the subject of a lost lock of hair. By putting the story of a lock of hair being cut off in the frame of an epic poem, he helped make his point that the people involved were making mountains out of molehills.

So, what do you think? Does the English major have practical value? Will it help me with my writing? Or do you think I should switch to Linguistics or the English Language major, which I could finish up and have a degree with much quicker?


  1. Well, I was an English/Teaching composite major, which was essentially a double major in English and Teaching, ending with a diploma and a Secondary Ed. certification.

    I loved my major and my school and thought I would be a high school English teacher.

    What I ended up being instead was in Instructional Designer in the computer and aircraft manufacture industry and a writer and editor. I loved my career and worked for about 15 years until I became too busy as a mother of 4 to continue and still sleep.

    If you're happy being a writer and an editor and have marketable skills, you'll probably do just fine, especially if you market your skills towards growing areas like editing and consulting on Web page content and design or help screen design and content and stuff like that. The computer stuff pays better than traditional paper editing.

    Good luck whatever you decide to to do.
    --Jill Buss

  2. As a Linguistics major/English minor (and American Studies major/Spanish minor), I say nah. If you're switching for marketability, Linguistics isn't marketable either ;) . If you're switching to get out of school sooner . . . I dunno. A degree is a degree. I'd go ELang + editing minor if you want to go the shorter route (and be a freelance editor). It looks (and is) more on-point than Linguistics. This probably isn't helpful.


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