Writing on a Computer
If you have never written on a computer, use whatever opportunities
your campus offers to learn word processing. Modern programs
are simple to use and will make your college career much easier.
It will also prepare you for your future career. Almost every
business and profession today requires computer literacy.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by technology, as many professional
writers do, consider taking a computer course. Many colleges
offer one credit courses or free seminars. If nothing else,
ask a friend or classmate to show you how he or she uses a
computer to write.
Strategies For Writing On A Computer
- Appreciate the advantages and limitations of using
Computers can speed up the writing process, allowing you
to add ideas, correct spelling, and delete sentences without
having to retype an entire page. But computers will not
automatically make you a better writer. They cannot refine
a thesis, improve your logic, or enhance critical thinking.
Don't confuse the neatness of the finished product
with good writing. An attractively designed document must
still achieve all the goals of good writing.
- Learn the features of your program.
If you are unfamiliar with writing on a computer, make sure
you learn how to move blocks of text, change formats, check
spelling, and most importantly master the print and save
functions. Find out if your program has an Undo key.
This can save the day if you accidentally erase or "lose"
some of your text. This key simply undoes your last action,
restoring deleted text or eliminating what you just added.
- Write in single space.
Most instructors require that papers be double-spaced. But
you may find it easier to compose your various drafts in
single space so you can see more of your essay on the screen.
You can easily change to double space when you are ready
to print the final version.
- Save your work.
If your program has an automatic save function, use it.
Save your work to a floppy disc or hard drive. If you are
working on a college or library computer and do not have
a disc, print your work after a writing session. Don't
let a power shortage or a keystroke error cause you to lose
- Label your files clearly.
Because many programs limit the number of characters you
can use in a file title, choose your names carefully. Develop
a clear notation system such as ENG1 or PSYCH2. If you wish
to save a new version of your first English essay you can
make it ENG1A.
- Print drafts of your work as you write.
Computer screens usually allow you to view less than a page
of text at a time. Although it is easy to scroll up and
down, it can be difficult to revise on the screen. You may find
it easier to work with a hard copy of your paper. You may
wish to double or even triple space before you print, so
you will have plenty of room for handwritten notations.
- Keep backup discs of your work.
Floppy discs are fragile. Store them in a case and keep
them clear of dust and debris. Do not leave them near a
TV or stereo as electrical fields can disturb the data you
have stored. Store important data on more than one disc
or save printed copies.
- Make use of special features.
Most word processing systems allow you to count the number of
words, check spelling, and use a built-in thesaurus. Some
programs will aid you with grammar and usage rules.
- Use spell and grammar checks but recognize their
Spell checking will go through your document and flag words
it does not recognize, quickly locating many mistakes you
might overlook on your own. But spell checks do not
locate missing words or recognize errors in usage, such
as confusing there and their or adopt
and adapt. Grammar checks sometimes offer awkward
suggestions and flag correct expressions as errors. Reading
your text aloud is still the best method of editing.
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Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark