Vox pop – July 2008

How useful is an English degree for a career in business writing?

John Simmons

I’ve got an English degree and never regretted it. Not because it’s given me particular skills that have been useful as a business writer but because it gave me three years reading the works of great writers. Having said that, I have found some of those writers – Shakespeare, Milton, dickens – still influencing what I write, sometimes in unexpected ways. But other degrees, other interests, influence people too and help shape what kind of writer you’ll be. The main thing is to keep your mind open to as many different sources of inspiration as possible, new and old. Three years at university is useful but you need to keep learning every day.

Rishi Dastidar

I dunno; I did modern history for my sins.

Jim Davies, totalcontent

For me, an English degree didn’t help particularly in getting a job. A more practical post-grad publishing course at the LCP (now LCC), did the trick. But three years reading and dissecting all the greats undoubtedly filters down into your own writing at a subconscious level. Which makes you a better writer, which helps you in your career. So long term, you undoubtedly reap the benefits. I just wish I had so much time for reading these days.

Sarah McCartney

I’ve no idea. I have a degree in Maths and Anthropology and another one in Marketing and Corporate Strategy. Best ask someone who’s got one in English and they can tell you if it’s ever come in handy. I learned to write by practising. I got better and faster as I went along. At least, I think I did. On the other hand, both my degrees are technically English as I studied for both of them in England. (I suspect that isn’t what you meant.)

Nick Asbury

It’s certainly not essential. Nor is any degree. The ideal career path for any copywriter would be to drop out of university, get a job as a chef in Paris, sell cookers door-to-door, join the British Intelligence Service, then become an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania. But then that probably only works if you’re David Ogilvy.

Ben Afia

You don’t need an English degree for a career in business writing – mine’s in archaeology, usefully. In fact you don’t need a degree at all. But you do need to have to have the rules ticking away in the background and a good feel for how language influences people. I’ve found that the best writers have had interesting careers. People who‘ve worked in different jobs, in unusual places often have an unconventional take on the world and that inspires fresh writing. Having said that, English would help me to describe the rules to clients when they ask. And I do rely on the English grads in my team when anything knotty comes up.

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