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Bob Nailor

What's In A Job Title?

Strange title for a writing tip but a very important one. Yes, you are an author, a writer, etc etc but this article is about, not necessarily you, but your character. Did that catch you off-guard?

Jane ambled through the house, dusting this and that as she went. House work!

Is Jane a house wife? You've heard the phrase "I'm just a house wife." Actually, in today's society, Jane is a Domestic Engineer.

Take this example as a better one...

Stuart opened the frosted glass door to the office and noticed the young lady behind the desk. He ambled up to her. "I'm here to see, Mr. Smith."
She glanced up from her nails. "I'm Mr. Smith's administrative assistant. May I inquire as to your business with Mr. Smith?"

Hmm? Somehow that detective story took a turn you didn't expect.

So, what am I talking about? I'm talking about title-fluffing. It has become more prevalent in the last two decades than ever before. In 1950 it was common for a man to say he worked in an office. Then, for some reason, it became popular for a man to drop a 'title' to designate his work environment. Well, part of the reason for title fluffing was to make the employee feel better about himself, especially when he wasn't getting a raise. Still, going from office worker to Time Keeper didn't put more meat and potatoes on the table.

Using the bank as an example...

There was the President, Vice-President, Secretary, and bank tellers. Now there is the Chief Executive Officer, President of Finances, President of Loans, President of Accounts and of course, each of them have Vice-Presidents. They no longer have secretaries but Administrative Assistants and Receptionists. Even bank tellers have fancier titles -- Finance Officers, Financial Advisors.

As I grew up, I was a paperboy. Today that is known as a Media Distribution and Account Collections Agent. Really? When I was a janitor for a company (a short-term job) they actually told me I would be a Sanitation Consultant. Somehow, while I was scrubbing the porcelain throne, I didn't feel like a consultant. Never once in the three weeks I performed as a Sanitation Consultant, did I consult with patrons of the restroom nor did I suggest stall 2 over stall 5. BTW, I moved from that position to Financial Inventory Distributor. Yeah, I was a clerk at the cash register for the grocery store. I won't go into the other positions available such as General Manager who oversaw Manager: Produce, Manager: Meats, Manager: Domestics, Manager: Pharmacy, etc. I believe there was probably about ten or twelve different managers. Stockboys were Inventory Specialists.

So exactly what does all this title fluffing have to do with writing? You may want to make sure that you don't degrade or berate your character by saying s/he was 'just a teller' or 'housewife' or 'paperboy.' You may want to colorize your writing with the new titles.

Just think how much better Jane will appear to your reader as a Domestic Engineer than a regular housewife. Brandy, the greeter at a fine restaurant is now a Reservation Specialist. And Jackie in the cloakroom is no longer a hat/coat check girl but a Garment Technician.

Maybe I'm getting old but, for me, the idea of writing "harried housewife" vs "harried domestic engineer" gives me two different images. Housewife I see in dress, maybe a bandana wrapped around her curler-infused hair, a small child in one arm and the vacuum cleaner in the other. A domestic engineer just seems to stiff, like a woman wearing a suit and somehow the vacuum cleaner doesn't seem to be part of the uniform. Fine, call me politically incorrect but some of these new titles just don't cut it in the writing world.

So, you're the writer - what is your job title? That's simple: Title Procurement Officer. Your job is to decide what occupation each character in your story will have and how they will exist handling their title. Have fun.

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