My Computer Isn’t a Typewriter
Years ago, I came across the book “The PC is Not a Typewriter” by Robin Williams. No this isn’t the “Good Morning Vietnam” Robin Williams. His book described how to make the transition from a typewriter to a word processor. It further described the many bad habits that were brought over from the typewriter.
When I was growing up, my father had an IBM Selectric typewriter that he pumped out several books with. When I was about 10, I used his typewriter to write reports, but it didn’t help too much because I made so many mistakes. Yes, in those days whiteout was my best friend. Around that time, we got our first computer. A Wang with a giant daisy wheel printer. It had an excellent word processor (for the time) and I got rather good at creating documents on it. However, it was still essentially an elaborate typewriter with very limited spell checking. Still, it was a lifesaver.
Later, there were word processors that had many fonts and a graphical method of viewing [typesetting] the document. This was a huge improvement for everybody. However, some bad writing traits remained. For example, it’s no longer necessary to add 2 spaces after a period. Way back when, this was essential for mechanical typesetting, but now that practice wastes paper. Another is monospaced fonts and old fonts like Times New Roman which is still the gold standard. We also have wide margins around the edges of the page, double spacing, ALL CAPITOL LETTERS and using spaces instead of tabs for alignment.
Fortunately, there have been some improvements that we have embraced. A really big one is the ability to import from other sources. For example, if I was writing a book about the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I could copy that text from the internet and it will be spelled correctly. See, I just did it.
The internet is another superb resource. For example, it can be used as a spell checker. Let’s take the word, Metropolitan and pretend that I typed, “Metrooplatin.” Looks right? But, none of the suggested correctly spelled words from the word processor look correct. If we paste this word into a search engine, often it will auto-suggest the correct word and then pulls up a dictionary. Neat trick.
Modern word processors also allow us to import pictures, share documents, easily change the format, merge the text around objects and preview before printing. The internet allows us to change the document into a different language, find new sources of content, check facts and it has many guide for improving your writing.
I now use Ariel font for everything I can, I delete the second space, never use ALL CAPITOL LETTERS and use tabs for alignment. I also look for tips and tricks within my word processor to aid my writing. A new one is the add-in Grammarly. It really helps find those grammar problems and makes my documents read better.
Overall, writers can focus on their words and let the computer take care of everything else. They can also use the internet as a fact checker, thesaurus, “urban” dictionary, source of material and a means of distribution. The overall point I am attempting to make is that we now have the endless freedom to make our documents read and look better much better. My computer is no longer just a typewriter it is a word powerhouse. While I desperately wish the world would change from Times New Roman to Ariel font, I never want to go back to a typewriter.

You’re the best -Bill
October 11, 2018
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