Tools Of The Trade

Tools Of The Trade

Probably nobody writes with a quill anymore, but many writers still use pen on paper to compose. Other writers have ‘progressed’ to using a typewriter once that technology became available—or started writing that way. But a good number have chosen to stick with it after word processing software became available. The decision to continue writing longhand or typing may be motivated by choosing to stick with what works. And in general I support the advice “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!” I can even appreciate the advantages to those methods, portability for one.

However, being a bit of a computer nerd and ‘early adopter’, I quickly got hooked on word-processing. I began writing on a Commodore 64 (which I bought as soon as it came out) with software called “PaperClip”. I even got a printer, although it couldn’t even properly print letters with lowercase ‘descenders’: for example, ‘g’ or ‘p’.

I remain a convert and, like most converts, tend to proselytize. So many things are much easier, from rearranging and organizing text to making any kind of changes without repeatedly having to retype the whole damn thing. I used to retype manuscripts many, many times, only to find that what I’d considered to be the final draft had some glaring typo or screw-up I’d missed. (And heaven help me if I decided to change the name of a character!) Especially for writers who aren‘t accurate typists, I can’t understand why they still put up with the frustration. Now I do all my writing on a computer, except for hastily scribbled notes when I’m not at my computer. I find it too time-consuming and tedious to write without a word-processor. However, I remain more effective at final editing with a hardcopy printout.

There are some important caveats about using a word-processor.  The spelling checker is great for catching a lot of typos, but it cannot be entirely relied upon. (A lot of students give me papers where their misspelling of ‘definitely’ shows up as ‘defiantly’, because their word-processors must have guessed what they were trying to spell.) The same applies to the grammar checker, which sometimes suggests making a ‘correction’ that is actually incorrect.

For final editing there is no replacement for hardcopy and an independent, critical, unbiased editor. (Hats off here to my wife!) © Ken Stange 2012-2015