Just because I’m an English major doesn’t mean I want to be a teacher

We’re not all the grammar police either

If you’re majoring in Writing or English, you’ve most likely been the repeat victim of several asinine questions — usually something offensive like “So you want to be a waitress for the rest of your life, then?” The stigma and stereotypes that shadow these subjects of study are tiring and overly predictable. When someone asks me what my major is, I sometimes don’t want to tell them because I already know what they’re going to say. Here are some of the most frustrating misconceptions English majors face — let’s all try to be a little less judgmental, OK?

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We all want to be teachers

I, and probably many, many others, chose to study Writing because at two different points in my life, I had amazing and inspiring English teachers. They made me fall in love with reading and writing, and I would not be where I am today without them. Teachers are great: They help young minds learn and grow, and in fact, many Writing and English majors do want to become teachers. But not all of us do. An English major is not the same as an Education major, and being a well-versed Writing or English major does not automatically qualify a person to teach. There are plenty of other things to do with a Writing/English degree — journalism, publishing, business, marketing… the list goes on — so please don’t pigeonhole us all into the “wannabe teachers” category.

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We don’t learn any ‘real world’ skills

This particular stereotype often stems from people saying something like, “I took a literature course freshman year. We read Huckleberry Finn, had a discussion about it, and then had to write an essay. That isn’t useful for any jobs in the real world.” Well, actually, it kind of is. Sure, at a job interview you’re probably not going to read a novel and write an essay about it to prove your skills. But in every field, you’ll be expected to communicate ideas with your colleagues, clearly and effectively. You’ll have to present and defend ideas and information in a way that is interesting and appealing — the same way you did in your “useless” Huck Finn essay. Almost every job requires the ability to communicate well, and majoring in Writing or English prepares people to become well-practiced in the invaluable art of communication.

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All we do is read books

We’re Writing and English majors — of course we enjoy reading (if not, we probably wouldn’t survive). The amount of reading and writing we have to do per day is unmanageable in the minds of other majors. I once overheard a guy in the elevator complaining about a three-page paper he had to write. Oh, yeah? Try twelve pages. We sometimes read hundreds of pages in one day, often multiple novels per week. We have to do extensive research, and write essays that reach far beyond any little book report. Also, we sometimes have to write multiple essays in a week, and they usually have a large page and/or word count. So don’t dismiss our major as “easy” just because all we do is “read books.” There’s a lot more to it than that.

We’ll edit all your work for free

Sure, if we’re close friends or family, I may try and spare a moment to read over your work (though I can’t speak for everyone). And honestly, sometimes we’re interested to see what you’re writing. But we are not your personal editors. Just like you, we have our own papers to write, so we probably don’t have much time to read yours. Yes, we have spent years practicing editing and proofreading, but it isn’t our job to just lend our time to whoever, whenever. Most universities have a Writing Center where tutors are paid to review students’ papers for free — hit them up instead of us.

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We judge everything you say/write to us

This is definitely not true. We’re only human: We use slang, and sometimes we end sentences with prepositions. Sure, we take pride in our grammatical knowledge, but that doesn’t mean we always abide by the rules, nor do we expect everyone else to do the same. Don’t assume we’re the grammar police and are going to arrest you at the first comma splice.

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