writing prompt: ads

There are lots of writing exercises out there that involve the quick-fire approach of using an classified ad as a starting point. The infamous Hemingway baby shoes one-liner is an example (forgive me if I don’t provide the link, yet again). I often had students write or respond to personal ads as an in-class writing assignment. One kind of classified ad is less suited to this kind of writing exercise, and that is, job ads.

Job ads tend to be very dry. We need x, y, z; get in touch if this is you. Some companies take recruitment more seriously and they indulge in marketing speak. Wow, are we a great company to work for!

My personal advice for anybody writing any kind of ad? Stay away from WOW.

Every once in a while I see an employment ad that jolts me, the kind of thing that gets story ideas firing immediately. Here’s one I saw today:

Farsi Linguist with Final Top Secret / SCI clearance for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Who would apply for this job? Really, I’m serious. A fluent speaker of Farsi is somebody either native to that part of the world, or somebody with close ties and long associations. So I ask again: who would apply for this job?

Have you ever run across a job ad that stopped you in your tracks? I’m not talking about the overblown fake-ads (for example: earn 3k a month lounging on your couch and eating bonbons!) I mean real ads that are astounding or outrageous in some way. Back a long time ago when I was looking for my first academic appointment I remember seeing some postings that took my breath away, usually from small colleges, something like this: non-tenure track faculty member to teach four introductory composition sections each trimester, take over undergraduate advising for the English Department., and assume the normal range of administrative responsibilities.

Which basically meant: come work your rear off teaching the most time intensive courses we’ve got and anything else we can think to heap on your desk, including but not limited to sweeping the halls, fixing the copier, and taking notes at every itty-bitty committee meeting. We’ve got next to nothing to pay you and after three years or so when you’re rung dry, we’ll boot you out for the next new PhD desperate for a job. If you had any research aspirations or family obligations let us just say: ha.

And still, I have to say the Guantanamo Bay linguist is the most disturbing ad I’ve ever run into.

6 Replies to “writing prompt: ads”

  1. The Final Top Secret/SCI clearance is the key — it’s someone who has worked for the government recently (within the last five years) either as a military member, civil servant, or contractor. In this case, they are probably looking for a recently honorably discharged military member who was already a Farsi linguist.

    And why is it disturbing? It makes sense to have someone at Gitmo who can speak the language most of the prisoners there speak, isn’t it?

    I can understand if the disturbing part is that the prisoners are there at all.

  2. The older I get, the more I read into help wanted ads. It’s experience that tells us there’s so much more going on behind the efficient list of requirements. And paranoia. Mustn’t forget the paranoia.

  3. not really sure why you think its disturbing. do you have the same feelings about people that join the military who then go to war or work to preserve our boarders and freedoms? the world isnt all so pretty and nice all the time – in fact most of the time. it takes dedicated people who know and understand how horrible things can be to protect us so that we can post our free speach on blogs and such – as well as keep us safe while we travel to the local Starbucks for our $4 mocha. To someone that says, here i am…send me…I say I am proud of you. I have friends that do this exact thing in cuba and I am proud of what they have set forth to do.

  4. kidd — first, I never, ever ridicule anybody for a typo. I make too many of them myself.

    Second, it doesn’t disturb me that military is looking for people in general or for linguists in specific. I can support the military and be grateful to each and every one of them and still not support the war.

    Third, what disturbs me about this is Guantanamo, and what goes on there. The loss of civil liberties, and disregard for the Geneva Convention, torture, all things that make me very angry at this administration and that scare me. Given the so-called Patriot Act, anybody could end up at Guantanamo, and stay there, without legal representation.

    Somebody who speaks Farsi is going to see — and have to participate in — some of the worst things we have ever condoned as a nation.

  5. well, i agree on the pat act in that it can be utilized to the n’th degree in a bad way – if left unchecked. note however that gtmo is an ending place, as it relates to terrorism, after multiple stops – some of the worst are there. i am employed in that line of work and the reality vs.perception of the gtmo are two very different things…so i am not opposed to gtmo (guantanamo) in the sense that very bad people are in that place for very good reasons. there are more than just farsi linguists down there – many are down there of diff lang sets. i do agree, as stated prior that the pat act has my radar up for sure – they can cut that loose for any reason and many can feel that pain.

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