Thursday, August 25, 2016

A new classified-ad category: jobs for writers who aren't.

Folks, we are witnessing the ongoing redefinition and devaluation of writing: No longer is it a discrete competency of unique pedigree and self-justifying utility. 

This morning I found two more jobs seeking writers who aren't really writers. One ad for a "promotional writer" stipulates that preference will be given to candidates with engineering degrees. (I do not suppose that too many graduates of writing or journalism programs just happen to possess such degrees.) The other job, in "corporate communications," gives preference to those with degrees in pharmacology or medicine. Clearly the built-in assumption is that you can teach just about any idiot to write, so you look for a candidate with knowledge in the subject area most closely aligned with your native business interests. In the case of the latter position, the company is mega-drug maker Pfizer. 

In effect, then, all writing is inching closer and closer to technical writingwhich isn't really writing as my colleagues and I taught it.

This again begs far-reaching questions about the way academia teaches writing and the manner in which curricula should be set up to prepare students for real-world opportunities. It bodes for a lot fewer essay classes and a lot more of what academics call "teaching across the curriculum." I.e., a student who wants to be a writer would also co-major in a specialized area like, say, engineering or pharmacology. Assuming, that is, the student actually wants to be able to make money with their* words. I guess I'm a dinosaur, but I resist the idea that anyone can be taught to write even adequately, let alone well. But who am I to say? What's writing "well," anyway? And maybe writing well doesn't matter. Maybe it's an anachronism, a casualty of our ADHD times. Maybe all that matters now is the conveying of information, period. Maybe all else is window dressing?
 * we are informed that in these highly gender-conscious days, "their" is now an acceptable singular pronoun. So as not to offend. 

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