Clichés & Misconceptions of Being an English Major

It’s hard out there for an English major. Not only is it a competitive field, but it’s also one where others constantly remind you that you won’t succeed, and so we’re destined to fail even before we begin. Rife with clichés and stereotypes, the English degree is widely mocked yet still surprisingly sought after. That’s because the people in it know that the rewards far outweigh the criticisms. Yesterday, I found myself in a room full of English majors like myself, and we had a bit of fun picking apart the various misconceptions of a Liberal Arts education. After a quick rundown, I’ve chosen my personal favorite clichés and filtered in the conclusions we came to, all for your reading pleasure. 

I’m a poet.

I’m sure there are great poets out there, but we are not all poets. We don’t just sit around in a circle trying to compare thee to a summer’s day. Some people want to teach, work in linguistics, edit stories, or become novelists. Point is, there are quite a bit of pathways to choose from. I myself am striving to become a novelist and an editor. What I’m really trying to say is that we are not just one thing. There are so many other interesting fields that it’s tough to stick to one. Every college student knows this. We like to broaden our range too. It certainly makes for a better résumé and skillset.


I ❤ Shakespeare.

“Diversity, diversity! Wherefore art thou diversity?”

Shakespeare may be one of the greats, but he certainly didn’t write the perfect story. If he did, then only his novels & plays would be in circulation. And that’s precisely my point. There are others out there. Dickens, Eliot, Austen, even contemporary authors like McEwan and McCarthy. Not everything revolves around Shakespeare. We do not idolize him. So please, the next time you attempt to mock me, try naming something other than Romeo & Juliet.


I has prefect grammer.

Just because I know of the rules of grammar does NOT mean I am beholden to them. I can break the rules, same as you can. And yet, when I misspell one word, misappropriate one definition, or misplace one comma, suddenly I’m the asshole??? Yes, I pay attention to these things when I’m writing an essay, as everyone should. But do I really need to keep up such painstaking detail when I’m tweeting or putting up a Facebook post? Point is, there’s a gray area, which is why I’m not the Grammar Nazi that everyone thinks I am. First off, I’m not German. Secondly, I have no idea what a Nazi has to do with English grammar. Whoever came up with the phrase clearly did not have a handle on geography. Or common sense.


I chose this major to coast my way through college.

Oh really now? Why don’t you try writing a 12-page paper dissecting the narrative of The Great Gatsby and how its themes serve as an astute commentary on our materialist culture even today? Coast your way through that one.


An English degree is WORTHLESS.

Ah yes, the holy grail. The one that gives me more migraines than the Westboro Baptist Church. Every English major knows what I’m talking about. The ever so condescending question of, “What do YOU plan on doing with an English degree?” If I took a shot after every time someone asked me this, I’d be hammered by noon. I’d actually prefer to be hammered before then. It’ll make the conversation less dull than it already is. This begs the question: why? Why does this cliché follow us around more than all the rest? Because some people believe us to be nothing more than spell-checkers, failed poets, slobs on a keyboard, etc. More simply, they just don’t understand what it means to be an English major. Only other English majors know exactly what I mean when I say that the experience is worth every penny. Because it’s not about the books we study or the papers we write. It’s about who we discuss and share these stories with. Like the pursuit of every degree, it’s about the collective experience of learning with people who are just as determined as you are. No one can take that invaluable resource away, not even those pathetic little naysayers.

As much fun as we had tearing these clichés apart, we all settled on one universal fact: don’t let these clichés get you down. Because that’s all they are, clichés. Overused phrases that lack any original thought. I didn’t let these clichés stop me then and they certainly won’t stop me now, not when I’m so close, not when I’ve got so much riding on it. Because it’s not just a degree. It’s my golden ticket into the career that I want. Will I make it? Who knows? Then again, do any of us know if we’re going to make it in the real world? As for me, I’m just a kid with a dream. That’s more than enough to try.

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