December 23, 2006

Foreign Service material

Last Sunday, the NYT Week in Review section had a story (p. 4) on the Foreign Service exam, "a half-day of questions on geography, English usage, history, math, economics, culture and more."  Yes, English usage is in it.  And apparently will continue to be in the new streamlined exam now under development.

In a box headed "Until Now, You Were Foreign Service Material If ..." there are three sections illustrating what you needed to do to be Foreign Service material: take college-level courses in a long list of subjects; read texts from a list of more than 150 recommended publications, seven of which are given here; and be able to answer dozens of questions like the six provided.  English usage turns up in the first two of these: the list of courses begins with "English composition/rhetoric"; and the list of texts includes, oh dear, The Elements of Style.  There seems to be no escaping Strunk & White.  So those who aspire to be Foreign Service officers should have learned to avoid the passive, the intensifier very, and beginning sentences with linking however, among other things.

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 23, 2006 12:15 PM