Saturday, March 25, 2006

Writing for thinking

I just came across an essay by Gerald Grow that I'd call required reading for anyone who writes with a computer. Here's an excerpt:

Computers seem to tempt people to substitute writing for thinking. When they write with a computer, instead of rethinking their drafts for purpose, audience, content, strategy, and effectiveness, most untrained writers just keep editing the words they first wrote down. . . . Drawn in by the word processor's ability to facilitate small changes, such writers neglect the larger steps in writing. They compose when they need to be planning, edit when they need to be revising.
Would one guess from the above that this essay was published in 1988? Aside from some details of diction (e.g., "microcomputer"), Grow's essay seems entirely contemporary -- suggesting that the problems of writing with a computer transcend the ever-changing specifics of word-processing technology.

Alas, Grow never suggests a return to paper and pencil for planning and drafting, but he does offer other useful suggestions.

» How Computers Cause Bad Writing

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