Saturday, August 18, 2018


"So, what's your major?"

Such is the question every college student hears (and probably returns) when they meet any new person in any situation. For some majors (for example: engineering, nursing, any other wildly popular degree), the topic stops there, or is kept temporarily alive by the classic follow-up, "So, why'd you decide to major in that?" However, if you're a Professional Writing and Information Design major (PWID for short), you're practically guaranteed one of several follow-up questions. And with the new school year just about to start, I thought I'd share some of the most common of those questions.


  1. "Oh, cool! So . . . what actually is that?" This is actually a fair question; unless you're either in PWID or friends with someone in PWID, you might not actually know the major exists. The tricky bit is that professional writing, unlike many other majors, doesn't have a hard-and-fast definition, so PWID majors (especially freshmen) sometimes aren't quite sure how to answer the question in a clear and concise way. My most recent fallback response is that it's writing for businesses in a variety of contexts: marketing, corporate communications, technical writing, instructional design, and more.
  2. "Oh! So you write books?" In case you didn't read the last sentence of point #1, professional writing is not the same as creative writing. A significant percentage of PWID majors hope to work in publishing someday, yes. A rather smaller percentage of PWID majors write creatively, yes. However, none of us are majoring in PWID because we think it'll teach us how to write the perfect novel. So, in answer to the question: yes, I write books, but I'm not majoring in writing books.
  3. "Oh, wow, I could never do that." Ok, so, I'm sure this is supposed to be a compliment, and it's better than someone suggesting the opposite, but I honestly find it more frustrating than almost any other question or comment I get. If you say it to my face, I'll probably try to laugh it off and say something along the lines of "Well, I enjoy it," or "Well, I could never do [insert other major here], so . . ." But what I want to say is something more along the lines of: "I'm aware, Karen. That's probably why I'm majoring in it and you aren't." It's just . . . yes, I know you're trying to say something nice, but could you please do it in a way that doesn't sound like you're fishing for either a return compliment or a reassurance of your writing ability?
  4. "Oh, so you can edit my paper for me!" If it's said jokingly, I'll probably laugh too. But if you're seriously asking? Well . . .

    You get the idea. I'm almost always happy to help a friend if I can, and usually my friends are the only ones who ask, for which I'm grateful. But like everyone else, I am a creature of limited time and energy, and I have projects of my own (usually time-consuming ones) to work on too. Speaking of which . . .
  5. "Oh! So you must write a lot of papers!" Actually, I don't — not as many as you'd think. Honestly, I've written just as many, if not more, papers for gen eds and Honors classes as I have for PWID classes. Instead, I have a lot of projects to apply the skills I learn in my courses — which I prefer anyway. Projects tend to combine writing and design elements, so they're a bit more exciting than just writing paper after paper. I think projects also tend to be quicker, but I could be wrong.
What questions do you have about PWID? And what questions (annoying or not) do you tend to get a lot about your major or profession? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

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