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Skills From English Classes That Professionals Use Every Day

Nicole Manges
Living the dream of getting paid to write

As a content developer, I’m living the dream of getting paid to write. I have a traditional 8-to-5 office job that includes lots of emails, Word documents, and meetings, and I like it that way. In a given day, I could write a five-word billboard slogan and a 650-word feature story for a magazine, but whatever the word count, I am putting my skills as a former English major to work daily.

A career like mine is only one of countless options available to someone with an English major’s skills. Regardless of our job title, we all will employ these skills one way or another. Here are just a few examples from my work:

Research

Although I don’t write 15-page literary research essays these days, I publish statistics, study results, and other facts in marketing materials all the time. I have to know where these facts came from, make sure the source is reputable, and add a source citation so readers can check the facts for themselves. I know how to do this because I wrote research essays as an English major.

Audience analysis

All writing has a target audience. Fanfiction, for instance, is intended for readers who are already familiar with the source material. While additional readers might like a piece of fanfiction, current fans will enjoy references that new readers won’t notice. As a professional writer, I work with multiple audiences, so I take time to learn more about each one and use the genre, tone, and style that appeals to them. This makes my writing more effective.

Storytelling, conflict, and plot

Even a 120-word postcard should tell a good story and lead to a call to action — the thing we want people to do because they read our text. In my world, the call to action is often something like “go online to learn more.” If I haven’t convinced readers that they want to go online to learn more, they won’t do it. I use concepts of good storytelling, including conflict and plot, to identify a need my readers have (“I need to know more!”) and then present the solution (“go online!”). 

Voice and identity

Voice is important because it tells readers who you are and what you value. In English classes, we study character voices and identities. What a character says flows out of who they are. In a business setting, I apply those same skills to write in brand voice. Every piece of writing I produce for my organization should sound like it’s coming from us and naturally flow out of who we are.

Empathy

Literature encourages us to see the world from others’ perspectives. Because I am so used to imagining what life would be like from a character’s point of view, I can imagine what my audience might be thinking or feeling, then respond to that with my writing. Similarly, when my coworkers give me pieces of writing to edit, I am able to make revisions that are true to their original intent because I am used to analyzing text for deeper meanings. I don’t just see what they wrote — I see what they were trying to say. I then deploy my writerly skills to help them bring that out even more.

Eloquence and polish

English majors take pride in a well-written sentence. In the business world, I have to write quickly, so I don’t always have time to find just the right word, but I am always responsible for making sure the text is clear (easy for the audience to understand), engaging (the audience wants to read it), and complete (no missing thoughts or facts).

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My career as a professional writer started with a degree in English from Huntington University. Wherever your career takes you, the skills you’ll learn as an English major will set the groundwork for success, and HU is a great place to get started! Learn more about the English degrees Huntington University offers at huntington.edu/English.

Written by
Nicole Manges