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If English is Your Thing, this Article is for You

Updated on September 17, 2014

The English Lifestyle

I have always loved to read and write, and knew that someday I would translate that love into a career, or the very least, a college major. I recently graduated with an English degree, so I accomplished roughly half of that so far.

It seemed that as I looked around in my English classes - by senior year, all of us had had numerous classes together - I could pick out characteristics that set them apart from, say, the biology majors or physics majors. Every department has their own quirks, no doubt, but speaking on behalf of all of the English students out there, here are some that set us apart.

William Shakespeare (1564-1816)
William Shakespeare (1564-1816)

1. We're grammar Nazis.

It's true, myself included. Poor grammar, typos anywhere, incorrect spelling - it's all like nails on a chalkboard to us. Even my text messages have proper punctuation and I meticulously make sure I'm not a victim of iPhone's autocorrect.

2. We probably have words tattooed on us, rather than just pictures. Or we would be more inclined to if we don't have them already.

Words speak to us; they mean something different to those who pick them apart for four plus consecutive years nonstop. They can be interpreted and explained to have beautiful meanings, especially those written by notable authors and playwrights.

3. There is no such thing as a "favorite author."

Would you ask a mother to choose her favorite child?!

4. Math? What?

I'm actually good at math, but I hate it. It's almost too straightforward - there isn't any wiggle room for interpretation or opinion. Just facts and numbers and whatnot. And in the higher levels, letters too? What, numbers weren't enough so you had to invade our inventory? Why must you betray us and go to the dark side, alphabet?

5. Not all of us write poetry, or like it, or understand it.

Just because I can pick apart a passage from a novel, doesn't mean I can always determine the hidden meanings behind four words in some poem you found on the internet. We all also don't write it in our spare time while watching butterflies flit beside us.

6. That being said, we either hate or love Shakespeare.

I personally love it. The sonnets, the plays...the more cross dressing and verbal misunderstandings the better. Some of us, though, hate it. Mostly because of the wordiness. Like a two-page soliloquy just for a character to basically say, "This sucks."

7. The periods of writing actually mean something, and thinking someone is in the wrong period is blasphemy.

Jane Austen was not writing during the Elizabethan era, nor were the tales of King Arthur written the same time as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The style of writing is completely different from era to era, which is why they're remarkable and noted in the first place, and only when you study them can you truly mark the differences. Of course, everyone should know the writers that clearly weren't around together, like J.K. Rowling and Charles Dickens.

8. The author's nationality or their country of residence also matters.

There's a big difference between someone writing in Great Britain and someone writing in Virginia. Every national atmosphere and mindset is entirely unique and usually, for us English majors, we can tell where a person is from based on their writing alone. It affects the story, the plot, the settings, even and most especially the characters. Such is the divide between American Literature and British Literature, and the civil war we've created in our own department over it.

9. We like to read in our spare time.

You read because you have to, and because you want to?? 'Tis true. As a matter of fact, we love to read recreationally because most of our time that we spend reading is for analysis and grades. It's nice to just pick up a book and read it without noting all the character development or comparing gender roles for an essay, because for four years, we don't have the time to read whatever we want. One of my friends jokingly asked after we graduated, "Is it still considered reading if we don't have to write a paper for it?"

10. We overanalyze everything anyone says anytime always.

It's what we do - it's what we're trained to do. Texts, emails, conversations in person - whatever medium of communication, we're analyzing it all. Your word choice, your punctuation, your intonation, your body language, your hand gestures. Literally all of this tells us things, and you can be sure that we're watching you carefully to observe them. If we're reading something you said, it takes even longer because there's more room for our imagination to fill in.

11. Procrastination is the understood talent of the English department.

Every single paper I ever wrote was written the night before it was due and printed out minutes before I turned it in. I was definitely not the only one that I saw scurrying from the library to the English building four minutes before class with a freshly printed essay in my hand. I found that I, along with many other English majors, wrote better under the pressure and when we had to just regurgitate words on a page without thinking them through. There were some people who wrote their papers punctually and methodically, though. But, um, what planet are they from?

12. Class discussion is like the Hunger Games.

When the majority of your points come from participating in class, it's a dog-eat-dog world. Every man and woman for themselves. If you have to contribute half-developed thoughts or piggyback off of someone else's observation, you do what you have to for that grade.

13. Titles are the most fun part of a paper.

We all think we're so clever when our titles have puns or a play on words, or make us chuckle. Trust me, we're not as clever as think.

14. We reminisce about the good ol' days, when Sparknotes was good enough if we hadn't read for class.

College professors know how to weed those people out faster than we can correct someone on where to put a comma.

15. 10 pages or 1,000 words isn't so bad of a length requirement.

Any page requirement in the single digits, definitely doable in a couple hours. 10 to 15 pages? Bang it all out the night before, that's what I always did. (And the numbers people look at us like we're the crazy ones when we say "only" 10 pages.) If there was a minimum length, you better believe we made every formatting change possible for that sentence to reach the twelfth page after repeating the same idea 14 different ways. Bigger commas, slightly larger margins, bigger paragraph spacing..."I didn't know how to fix that on my computer." Lies, we do, and it's there on purpose.

16. We're the ones who are in love with all the fictional characters.

What mere mortal can resist Mr. Darcy?

17. We correct you out loud if you make a mistake mid-sentence.

"That was funner--" "Funner isn't a word. It's 'more fun.'"

The Most Accurate Portrayal of Writing an Essay


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    • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

      Ally Lewis 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      I agree, Shakespeare was meant to be acted, not read in your head!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Shakespeare is like opera that way (love or hate). Shakespeare should be seen, not read, for my taste. I live surrounded by engineers who are amazed when I can name the artist in a gallery. I tell them their souls are vacant. They laugh. But they are still impressed I know a Monet from a Salvador Dali.


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