Orange Alert

The Top 5 Signs You Are a Writing Major

Caitlin Heikkila portrait

Posted on: April 26, 2009


There are currently 77 writing majors at Syracuse University. While you may not know all 77 of these individuals, they are surprisingly easy to pick out from the rest of the student body. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of identifying the top five signs you know you are a Writing major.

  1. You have advanced carpal tunnel at 22 years old.

You've tried icing them. You've tried massage. You've tried heat packs, but your finger joints permanently ache. Countless nights spent typing your "This I Believe" essay, editing your analysis of President Obama's inaugural speech, and formulating your hypervisibility thesis have caught up to you. Rewriting, revising, reworking, redoing, you try to re-member why you chose to procrastinate. Your hands cannot be unmolded from this position, leaving you looking like a bear that recently visited the taxidermist. The Health Center has put you on a daily dosage of prednisone for the swelling, but at least you have something in common with those at your internship at The Nottingham Senior Retirement Community.

  1. You have no friends because you "grammar-policed" them away.

"Me and Jen want coffee. Wanna come?" Your grammar-trained ears start bleeding. You hesitate for a moment, considering keeping your mouth shut, but her sentence echoes through your head, waiting to be corrected. You can't hold it in. 

"Jen and I!" You blurt out instantly relieved. 

"Jen and you what?" she frowns.

"Jen and I, not me and Jen." 

"No, me, you and Jen." Quickly this conversation escalates into a new rendition of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" When you can finally make clear that you were only correcting her grammar, she scowls at you and rolls her eyes. You will be drinking your mocha java alone this afternoon.

  1. You've memorized the Writing Program website's description, so you have an answer for the ever so popular question, "What is the Writing major?"

The Writing and Rhetoric Major focuses on different genres and practices of writing as enacted in specific historical and cultural contexts. Students write in a wide range of genres: advanced argument, research writing, digital writing, civic writing, professional writing, technical writing, creative nonfiction, and the public essay. In the process of exploring and practicing these genres, students study and analyze the interaction of diverse rhetorical traditions and writing technologies and assess how these factors shape the nature, scope, and impact of writing in a variety of contexts. The major also asks students to examine writing and rhetoric as embedded in culture, and looks at writing identities, their emergences in cultures and subgroups, and the relations among writing, rhetoric, identity, literacy, and power.

You catch your breath. 

"So . . . you just write?" a blank face stares back. You are so misunderstood.

  1. You've moved into the basement of HBC and nobody has noticed.

A bat whizzes by your head as you click on your flashlight, so you can make it safely down the gloomy Huntington Beard Crouse staircase. Clearing out a mass of cobwebs, you spread out a sleeping bag across the cold cement floor. Names of three professors adorn each door, yet you haven't seen a soul since you moved in. Lois Agnew sent you 17 emails saying there is a student lounge down here, but you still haven't seen it. On the bright side, you will have some place quiet to write your final 205 research paper. 

And the number one sign that you are a Writing major is . . . You have taken a class that has changed your life.

You may have arthritis. Your only friend may be Eileen Schell. You may be residing in the dreary caverns of HBC, but . . . it's all been worth it. Whether it was Creative Non-Fiction with Minnie Bruce Pratt, Studies in the Politics of Language and Writing with Adam Banks, Digital Writing with George Rhinehart, or maybe an internship experience, every Writing major will tell you the same thing. "You have to take that class. It will change your life!" New perspectives, new ideologies, new relationships: you have gained all of these. You were challenged. You transformed. You grew. And while you may still have to recite the mission statement to outsiders, fellow writing majors will always understand, and be able to bond over their experiences in the Syracuse University Writing Program.

Thank you.