A while back, I needed some minor surgery, and as the nurse was taking my history, she asked what I do for a living. I told her, and I commented that I often have nursing students who say that they will never need to know how to write anything once they are actually working. The woman laughed out loud. It was the most foolish thing she had heard all day.
I have also heard that claim from engineering students, accounting students, and general business students. After teaching many semesters of business writing—and hearing the complaints of employers who are frustrated at the terrible writing skills of the people they work with—I know how silly it is to think that you will not need to know how to write when you get a job.
As far back as 1966, employers were complaining that their people cannot write. I have an article from the Bureau of Land Management, which includes this comment:
One chemical company executive put it this way: "If our antifreeze had the same quality as our writing, we'd rust out half the radiators in the country in 6 months."*
This is why I want you to consider the place of literacy in your professional life—even if you are not going into something obviously literate (English teacher, poet, or novelist).
For this essay, you have two choices, which are quite similar:
The point of this paper is to help you to leave behind some misconceptions ("Workers in my field never read or write anything"), so you will need more fact-finding than your own gut reactions. This is one paper where "I think that" and "I feel that" and "to me this means" will do you no good. Instead, try some Internet searches; talk with people who actually do the work; ask your faculty members.
That list of non-literary professions was pulled directly from the Ashland University website's list of majors. There are certainly other "non-literary" fields of study—engineering, for example. My father, an electronics engineer, once commented to me that the further he went in his profession, the less real engineering he did. In his day, figuring out things such as voltage drop in a power transmission line was delegated to the young recent graduates; now we have computer programs for that sort of "grunt work." But Dad said that the further he went in his profession, the more writing and teaching he did (and the less engineering). I have an article of his from the Fall 1983 issue of Rural Telecommunications, discussing the point that even simple telephone companies out in the boondocks need to modernize with fiber optics and electronic switching.
We will not be meeting as a class after Thanksgiving, so the peer editing will be done online. The instructions are in the folder for Week 14, and the editing must be finished by the end of Friday, December 4, 2020. Yes, this does count for a grade.
*O'Hayre, John. "A First Look at Gobbledygook." 1966. 80 Readings, edited by David Munger, HarperCollins, 1992, pp. 43-48.
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Revised 7/20/20 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.