IMHO Installment #9: English Majors Shouldn't Become Editors

21 Mar 2007

It just fucks you up, really. When you're an English major, you learn to analyze literature through any of various filters beneath the oversized Cinzano-umbrella called literary criticism. All of these filters are interesting and, if applied well, will easily guide you through numerous term papers up to several hundred words in length (maybe less if you're creative with your font choice).

So, you read each piece, concentrate on each sentence, pick up on themes, interesting cadences, etc ... and produce this piece of writing demonstrating your brilliant insights into the work, much of which may not even have been apparent to the author. Let me tell you, I fucking destroyed Marge Piercy once -- so bad, it almost felt wrong.

Then you graduate. Chances are favorable that you'll accept one of the only two non-academic "in our field" jobs English majors are qualified for. (I've been out of school for far too long to have seriously considered recasting the previous sentence to avoid placing a preposition at the end.) Your low-paying choices? Writer or Editor.

If you go the editor route, chances are pretty good you'll end up editing a boring monthly newsletter about the Securities & Exchange Commission. In my case, it was legal papers about the insurance industry. Not exactly Lysistrata.

Over the sludge of years, you'll develop a strategy for reading this stuff without putting a gun to your temple -- a strategy almost in direct opposition to what you've been taught to do. Instead of analyzing a piece as a whole, your brain becomes almost like a "grammar/style/usage filtration system." You'll come to notice every god damned typo, extra space, widow, orphan, etc. and when you're through, you'll have a squeaky clean manuscript conforming to the Chicago Manual of Style (or AP or Bluebook or whatever fucked-up in-house style guide your managing editor came up with to justify his or her job). Only, you'll have zero retention of whatever it is you've read.

This is not good. IMHO. Don't become an editor.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On March 21, 2007, Winter wrote:

You crushed my dreams.

Thanks.

On March 22, 2007, Grant Miller wrote:

I think I could have written this, since it appears to clearly be about me and my life as a writer and former English major. I should have gone into plastics.

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