Why English Majors are Good at Their Jobs, Plus Proof That They Can Move Up

"Why English Majors are Good at Their Jobs, Plus Proof That They Can Move Up" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

In the last post, we looked at just a few jobs suited to people with English degrees, such as content editing and publishing, marketing writing, social media and email work. A lot of people may think it’s all a bunch of bunk—so it’s time to do some debunking.

English degrees involve a lot more than reading or writing all day. Though that’s a large part of it, the larger tie-in is where the mindset, skills and aptitudes of the English major meet the needs of the workforce.

Grammar and punctuation. Let’s get the most obvious skill out of the way—the one that everyone sees as an English major’s only skill set. People believe that the greatest skill of English majors is knowledge of English grammar, punctuation and the like—and they do need that knowledge. Why?

Because it prevents companies from looking stupid.

It’s obvious why editors need good grammar skills, but so do those who choose content. Does a company really want a content manager who accepts submissions or creates content littered with errors?

Even social media posts are more credible when grammatically correct.

Is somebody asking for your money in an email with too many grammatical mistakes? Are you likely to trust the quality of a product if something as simple as a company’s emails continuously have mistakes?

No one is perfect, and there will always be grammatical mistakes in the world; but you get the idea.

Strategizing content. Whether it’s considering what type of infographics to post online or what articles will be running in a publication, editors, marketers and various content staff need to consider one important thing: the audience.

English majors are good at considering the audience: They spend a ton of time in school writing toward a certain slant and reading various works (both other students’ writing and published authors), and thus learn how to look at content from another person’s point of view. Audience engagement is of vital importance—reaching and keeping the right audience (a.k.a. customers and clients) is a hallmark of success.

Reading literature can play a large part in this, also. English majors can take an entire plot, characters, setting and more to see the small details as well as how those details fit together.

Just as a sidenote, if more people had this skill, the strategy of entire lives would change.

English majors are good at considering the audience….Reaching and keeping the right audience (a.k.a. customers and clients) is a hallmark of success.

Writing to persuade. If you’re trying to reach customers, persuasion is obviously key—but it’s also key if you’re writing a business proposal. For non-profits, grant writing (writing proposals to specific companies about how their grant money will be used) takes just as much skills in persuasion as business proposals (and is actually a form of proposal writing).

Jobs for English Majors Vary—Just Like Any Other Major

One time, while driving to work (at a publishing company, by the way), I was changing radio stations and happened upon a talk show. The radio personalities were taking calls in which people complained about their jobs, and one person called in about how her editing job involved mostly comparing and contrasting the same documents, perhaps just in different languages (as she obviously was fluent in more than one language).

When the radio show hosts asked if she had a degree, she unfortunately answered, “An English degree.” And of course, the hosts went on about how useless that was, saying, “Oh yeah, look how far that got you!”

Keep in mind that every company is different—this is true for every job out there. People in just about any major have various skill sets within that field; and different companies will utilize different skills within that discipline. The caller’s experience was much different, for example, than my first editing job.

Moving Up with an English Degree

I was lucky enough that my first job out of college was with a magazine publisher. It was an entry-level job, and I enjoyed the content. With any job relating to content work, handling material that interests you is half the battle.

After nine months, I was able to move to an associate editor position with additional responsibilities. After a few more years, it was the managing editor position, which included planning articles targeted toward our audience, between my own ideas, ideas submitted by freelance authors and questions from readers. After that, I became the editor of a couple of publications. There are other positions for those wanting to move up in the editorial ranks; each company has a different lay of the land for potential career paths. Some will not, qualifying as “dead-end jobs”—but in that case, you just go someplace where the path leads farther.
It’s the same with any job that can be performed at more than one venue.

Some of us with English degrees learn even more skills, which when combined with our English majors, give us a pretty large toolbox; graphic design and web editing are just a couple of examples.

The Last Consideration

Will someone make a lot of money with an English degree? Most people don’t—but they can certainly survive just fine if they don’t have an outrageous lifestyle. People in publishing and content fields tend to agree that they made the conscious decision at one point to choose something they love to do, though it won’t make them rich. People have different priorities, and beyond paying the bills, it’s always an individual decision.

By now, it should be clear that jobs for English majors can be complex and rewarding for the right people—and they’re jobs that may change with the times but aren’t likely to go away any time soon.

This post was both for English majors and naysayers alike—please share!


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Retro Trends aren’t Just Nostalgia: Here’s Why

"Why Retro Trends Aren't Just Nostalgia" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

Retro revivals and vintage are all the rage these days — but that may not be just because of nostalgia. In a way, we need the retro.

Don’t believe it? People of all ages jump on the vintage bandwagon. And let’s face it: That’s not really typical. Past generations did everything possible to avoid being “like their parents.” Despite all the technological advances and addictions to screen time the present day has to offer, ironically, going on a blast to the past has somehow become popular.

Why? Past decades oozed creativity.

The 80’s was the last decade that truly had a strong sense of style. When you think “80’s,” you automatically picture big hair, huge earrings, shoulder pads, crazy patterns, members-only jackets, pastel colors and fluorescents…all with 80’s hair metal or synthesizer music playing in your head.

What about the 70’s? You picture bell bottoms, disco, avocado green colors….The list goes on.

So when you picture the decades between the 20’s and 80’s — and the 90’s somewhat, too — you get a very strong sense of the decade’s style and sense of creativity.

What about when you picture today? You think of cell phones…not much else overall. Somehow, things today are just boring.

Let’s take the 80’s as an example in contrast.

The 80’s Look

Prince’s song “U Got the Look” and Roxette’s “The Look” may be talking about specific people in the lyrics — but there’s no doubt that the 80’s look still is in a class of its own.

Netted Tops, Fingerless Gloves, Blue Eyeshadow and Hairbows

"Why Retro Trends Aren't Just Nostalgia" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

People in the 80’s enjoyed awesome clothing. Netted tops started showing up, as well as wearing fingerless gloves and big hair bows just like Madonna’s. Bright blue eyeshadow and red lips gave the 80’s a bold makeup look — even more so with vivid hot pink lipstick. It didn’t look ridiculous back then — it was cool. And looking back on it, it was pretty creative, too.


"Why Retro Trends Aren't Just Nostalgia" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com
Loads of Denim, Fedora-Type Hats and Big Earrings

In the 80’s, bigger was better–and this included earrings and shoulders, as evidenced by shoulder pads. Okay, shoulder pads may have been a bit out there, but if you didn’t wear shoulder pads, it might have been just tops that were way too big for your body and slouched all over you. Pair that with some jeans and a jean jacket, and you would be ready to go!

That’s probably not the sleekest look on earth by today’s standards, but it was fun.


Big Hair and Mullets

"Why Retro Trends Aren't Just Nostalgia" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com
Don’t be horrified by the sight of a young kid sporting a mullet — in the 80’s, boys wore mullets all the time. Girls (and women) had their hair “blown out” with plenty of teasing to boost and tons of hairspray to hold it together for the entire day. And hold it did!

In the 80’s, people were able to go to the grocery store, to school and work, and everywhere in between with hair that floated all around their head.

What’s funner than all that, at least as far as going about and doing your daily routine?

Those are quite a few examples just of the 80’s look — but there’s more! Next time, we’ll continue looking at how retro days were so much more creative than today. For reals….

Related to “Retrospective.”

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Oil Pastel Experiment: Trying Gelatos for Underpainting

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In the last post, we looked at using acrylic paint as an underpainting layer for an oil pastel piece. This time, we’re going to look at a medium that is probably not commonly used for underpainting: Gelatos®.

Faber-Castell’s Gelatos are a stick pigment often used for art journaling. They aren’t pastels, but they do resemble softer oil pastels in their consistency—but they are much more “mushy” and are in fact often compared with lipstick in texture. There are several sets of Gelatos available; for this piece, the pastel color set was used to match the subject: a retro Peaches n’ Cream Barbie.

Gelatos offer a lot of flexibility. They can be used dry (and blend into the paper easily) or can be used with water. Once they’re dry, they don’t budge—which makes them great as an underpainting layer if you want it to stay put. Also, you can draw pencil marks on top of it, and nothing will smear from erasures.

Gelatos aren’t noted to work well on canvas (from my research), so a mixed media paper was used. Mixed media paper also seems to work well with oil pastels, similar to bristol board, in that it offers a smooth surface for blending.

Materials used:

  • Faber-Castell Gelatos: Pastels Set
  • Sennelier and Faber-Castell Oil Pastels
  • Conte Crayon (for fine details)

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the underpainting layer. It looked similar to the underpainting done in acrylic paint but was obviously done in pastel colors.

All Pros—and No Cons

The Gelatos made a perfect underpainting layer for the oil pastel! They were applied dry and blended in large areas with a baby wipe; small areas were blended with Q-Tips. At a certain point, it was obvious that the outline of the nose was not drawn in (which I meant to do), so I went in with colored pencil to draw on top of the Gelatos. Even though some mistakes needed to be erased, the Gelatos did not move.

The conte crayon used for finer detail did well when used on top of all the mediums underneath when Gelatos were the underpainting.


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So the verdict is in! Gelatos are great as an underpainting layer under oil pastels. They’re fun to work with, and are readily available at places like Hobby Lobby and Michaels—plus, you can use coupons there. I will definitely be purchasing more Gelatos for future projects.

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Oil Pastel Experiment: Acrylic Underpainting Pros and Cons

"Oil Pastel Experiment: Underpainting Pros and Cons" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

Oil pastel is perfect for those who want something between drawing and painting — something with more of the control of drawing but some of the flexibility in blending available with painting.

Oil pastels on their own can be very striking — but underpainting can help fill in some of those little spots that show underneath. This is the first experiment with underpainting mediums for pastel and trying to find the right one.

Since canvas worked for some previous oil pastel pieces, canvas seemed to make the most sense when working with acrylic painting as the underpainting; a matte varnish was added over the acrylic to make it easier to blend the oil pastels. So that’s what was done here. An earlier “mini experiment” ended up having no varnish over acrylic underpainting, which ended up a bit rough for blending the oil pastels on top.

The subject was a collector Barbie doll from the 1990’s: Renoir Barbie. Dolls make a great subject because they have a face to work with but aren’t as difficult as real people at the same time. For a piece that’s basically just an experiment, that works perfectly. 🙂

Materials used:

  • Acrylic paint: Grumbacher Academy and Winsor & Newton Galeria
  • Liquitex Matte Varnish (over the acrylic underpainting)
  • Sennelier and Faber-Castell Oil Pastels
  • Conte Crayon (for fine details)
"Oil Pastel Experiment: Underpainting Pros and Cons" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com
Underpainting in acrylic for 1990’s Renoir Barbie oil pastel. Sorry for the glare!

The underpainting for this piece was done in all gray tones, as the finished product was to be black and white.


The oil pastel blended very smoothly and easily with this method. Not only was it easy to work with, but it also made it easier to scrape off mistakes. Unwanted marks came off pretty well without much left behind.


It was difficult to build up white pastel very well with this method; the same went for any semi-transparent or lighter grays. Any sketch lines also showed easily underneath.

Also, conte crayon, which has worked well in the past for fine details on top of oil pastel (e.g., eyelashes) did not want to stick to the pastel when it was on top of the acrylic underpainting.

The finished piece turned out decently, though.

"Oil Pastel Experiment: Underpainting Pros and Cons" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

So overall, this method may work well if using very faint (or no) sketch lines drawn in beforehand. If bold colors only are used, then the transparency when blending wouldn’t be an issue — but clearly, there’s probably a better method out there.

Stay tuned for another experiment….

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