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The Blue & Gray Press | May 24, 2019

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UMW needs more technical writing courses

UMW needs more technical writing courses


Staff Writer

The English, Linguistics, and Communications department should offer technical writing courses, or technical communication, to further expand course options tailored towards professional writing.

I recently interviewed for a job, and the interviewer said that one of the reasons my application stood out was because of my English degree. Strong writing skills are one of the most valuable assets brought to the job market, and yet it is a skill that is declining. 

SAT score statistics from College Board show a steady decline in writing scores from 2006-2016 before the SAT was redesigned to omit a writing specific section. Over this 10 year period, the writing score from the SAT went from an average of 497 to 482 points, a staggering 15 point drop. The scores never increased between any two years, only decreased.

In essence, technical writing is a blooming field that is responsible for communicating complex material in an easier-to-understand format. The fruits of a technical writer’s labor are many written materials the general population takes for granted such as instruction manuals for anything from how to set up furniture to how to operate a spacecraft; there’s also medical writing, science writing, textbooks, and more.

There are a lot of job opportunities for technical writers, but they must have the skills to be able to qualify for these positions, specifically in a professional writing style.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s website, technical writers get paid an average annual salary of $70,930 or $34.10 an hour which is far from being a shotty salary. A technical writing career typically only requires a bachelor’s degree for employment, unlike many other jobs that are starting to require a master’s degree to meet the application’s criteria. However, the most stunning statistic is that the technical writing occupation has a projected 11% growth rate from 2016 to 2026. That is faster than the average for all occupations.

The ELC department already has plenty of writing courses, so why does UMW need technical writing-specific courses? 

Well, technical writing is a genre classification unto itself. While the writing skills taught and honed in other English courses are certainly transferrable, technical writing specific practice is not something English majors get to do. It is important spending time learning to write in the sophisticated language of an analytical essay, the compelling prose of creative writing, or produce high quality research paper, but in today’s job market, it is a disservice to not train individuals in this genre.

While much of the current English degree demands sophistication, technical writing demands simplicity and conciseness. Other students within the English, Linguistics, and Communications department would like to see these courses become an option when perusing the catalog. 

Freshman English major, Jessica Morin, has aspirations to work in a publishing house following her graduation. When asked if she felt the department should implement professional writing courses into the catalog, she responded, “Yeah, I think it would be a good idea because [that] is always needed.”

Sarah Mendelssohn is not only a senior English major at UMW, but also already owns her own business, Wildflower Collective, right in Fredericksburg. She also recognized the benefits adding professional writing courses to the program would bring.

When asked if she felt having professional writing courses would positively affect her connection with being an entrepreneur, she responded, “I write for work all of the time, so any and every class I’ve taken that has writing concentration has been beneficial, so in light of that I definitely think a professional writing class would be useful.”

With the job market progressing in favor of technical writers, the time for the English, Linguistic, and Communication department to implement technical writing courses is now.

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