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CHANGES IN TECHNOLOGYPosted Friday, July 29, 2011, at 8:12 AM
I love my computers. I say that in the plural because I have five of them: a desktop at home, a desktop and laptop at the office, and two notebooks. My eye is also on an iPad, which I hope to have by the end of the year. (I'm pacing myself.) The Internet is a wonderful tool for doing research, and the word processing programs (Microsoft Word being my program of choice) are a godsend for aspiring authors.
When my articles, short stories and books were first being published nearly 30 years ago, I wrote my first drafts in longhand, then propped the scribbled pages up next to my typewriter and typed them out. Then I edited on the pages, propped them up again and retyped them. Many were the times I retyped an entire page because I'd changed only a word or two. Now, with Word, I can make changes within the document and simply print out a new page. Or the entire document, if I feel like it.
There are pluses and minuses to this. The big plus, of course, is not retyping hundreds of pages as I make editing changes. The minus is that it's so much easier to make changes that I'm not sure they're always for the best. Back when I had my hand-typed pages and was editing on them in pencil, I made darned sure that any and all edits were thoughtfully considered. Also, if I crossed out a word and wrote in a substitute, the crossed-out word was still visible. Sometimes, when looking at it again, the first word seemed like the right one after all, and going back to it was easy. In a Word document it's so easy to make changes and print them out that I find myself editing and printing willy-nilly, going through many more versions and using much more paper than I ever did before. (I thought typewriter ribbon was expensive at the time; it doesn't hold a candle to ink cartridges.) And if I change a word or phrase in my document using Word, the original is gone - unless I use the tracking changes feature, which I've never cared for.
All that being said, don't be a slave to your computer word processing program. While working on several documents lately, I've run across some often frustrating and sometimes funny glitches in Word. Each one is a reminder not to blindly follow everything my Word program tells me.
For example, sometimes Word will give out one of those squiggly underlines that indicate a word is wrong. Don't trust it! Word has suggested I change "their" to "they're" when I know my way is right. C'mon, I'm not an idiot. Would I really write "When they arrived at they're house, they found it had burned to the ground."? Of course not. Yet that was the suggestion Word made. It also seems to have trouble with "its" and "it's" and again I will ignore its rather adamant underlinings and go with my own common sense.
But my favorite, by far, is the change Word recently suggested to a sentence in a book Shapato Publishing will soon put out. The Callie Stories (fiction) by Karen Jones Schutt of Sioux Falls, is a wonderful collection of stories about life on the farm in the 1940s, written from the POV of eight-year-old Callie.
This is the sentence, part of which Word gave the squiggly underline: "When she got to the bottom of the stairs everyone wanted to know where she had been hiding, but she wouldn't tell." Word's suggested change for the underlined part? "When she found the underlying cause of the stairs everyone wanted to know ..."
I'm pretty sure Karen would not approve.
"Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect!" Owens Lee Pomeroy
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Jean Tennant has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. Beginning with short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, she eventually branched out to full-length work, with several novels published by Warner Books, Kensington and Silhouette. Now the owner of Shapato Publishing, LLC, in Everly, Iowa, she teaches writers' workshops throughout the Midwest, for which her schedule can be seen at: www.jeantennant.com. Jean lives in Everly with her husband, Grover Reiser, and their dogs, Kirby and Dakota. Favorite quote: "Outside of a dog, man's best friend is a book. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx.