From Ellen Stuart’s blog Smells Like Squandered Youth comes this idea, which I am fully prepared to co-opt, borrow or steal as the need requires. She proposes the following business plan for members of the Professional Order of English Majors (POEM), of which I am a member:
A company that contracts out members of POEM to make business owners and their employees seem intelligent in writing. It's not a PR company, because PR people have to be diplomatic. We will be a company of nasty, mean sons of bitches (and we're not going to be just a bunch of grubby Starbucks-and-MacBook-toting English majors. Women will have to wear skirt suits and heels, and guys will have to dress like Joseph Gordon Levitt in Inception. We will carry briefcases). Hire us, and we'll make sure that every semi-colon is used correctly, fix subject-pronoun agreement problems and comma splices, and make sure that every last godforsaken apostrophe is used properly. As a free service, we will also correct use of Clip Art or Comic Sans.
I mean, seriously, why not? This is a good idea. A great idea. A really great idea. I don’t love the proposed dress code, but otherwise, this could totally work.
As Ellen says:
It honestly mystifies me why all businesses don't have an English major on retainer the way they have a lawyer. If your website or correspondence has "its/it's" confusion, or, worse "they're/their/there" confusion, you and your company look sloppy and unprofessional.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what an English major could do for any writing that your company produces.
Finally, a place where my hyper-critical, snarky, argumentative, attack-dog mentality could provide some value.
As Ellen, a member of the POEM as well, says:
This is what we're good at: reading, writing, talking, forming arguments and yes, grammar.
Yes! It’s true. I can’t change the oil in my car or install replacement windows or code in HTML or even sew a button, but this is something I can do.
I can correct grammar.
I can refine arguments.
I can edit company literature.
I can summarize documents.
I can assist in the preparation of a speech.
I can make an idiot sound professional.
At last, the career that utilizes all of my skills.
The only question remains is whether or not this business model is viable. Is Ellen ahead of her time? Is my vision of a POEM consulting company too cutting edge? In these difficult economic times, will executives be able to see the added value of having someone like me on retainer?
Will businesses believe that they need someone like me?