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Are you a better writer or a better ‘type-writer’ ? November 2, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation.
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I was trying to write something today – write, not type and not fill a form which is a more structured activity, but write something as unstructured and impromptu as writing a letter. I realized how awful it had gotten over the years given that there has been little writing activity. Hardly taking notes during college and grad school, you lose that art of writing anything at all, without mistakes, misspelling, poor construction. Infact, don’t be surprised if this also takes a toll on your ability to ace exams where you have to write long answers ;Β  it sure did to me, or so I am given to think.Β  ( a good enough reason to take notes in class).

I don’t know at when in the last years I must have crossed the point where I had typed more characters than I ever wrote (I used to keep count, you know πŸ˜‰ ). To be sure, its impossible to know if it ever did, but I imagine it must have. Also interesting – and I am sure this happened – is the point in life where your fastest typing speed just exceeded your best writing speed (for a given number of mistakes).

I still feel that I am a better writer with the keyboard than I ever was writing on paper. Its not just the obvious advantage of the backspace key but the ability to move entire sentences around which I often tend to do overdo. And once you move sentences around, you tend to (often justifiably) modify sentences themselves and this can often mean moving around sentences again πŸ˜€ . But then one might argue that one sentence very well thought that went out on paper is better than several iterations of a sentence where the most frequently occurring ‘letter’ is the backspace.

Its hard to measure any of this however, even assuming you come up with a measure of what good writing really is. This is because there is an inherent bias in that most of my writing on paper was done a few years ago and arguably one might have improved writing skills over time by just having hung in there and written more. Ideally then you would need snapshots from around the same point in life where you wrote quite a bit and typed in as well. Fortunately for me, the time around 1997-2000 would qualify for such a study, except having to do any automatic analysis of paper-written material is rather cumbersome and time-consuming. And the nature of content is such that there is little scope to outsource the typing work.

Sorry about that silly, ungrammatical title – the best I could come up with. Maybe if I were writing this post, I would have come up with something ….well, whatever !

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Comments»

1. yhac - November 2, 2007

I’m definitely a much faster typer than writer, but for reasons that I haven’t figured out yet, I feel much more comfortable starting a draft on paper, especially if its of a long essay.

It could be because writing on paper gives me degrees of freedom — in being able to sketch out ideas in figures/formulae etc — that typing doesn’t, atleast not yet. It could also be because there are fewer things to distract you if you are facing a book, when compared to a computer πŸ™‚

Once I have a rough skeleton ready, I usu switch to typing. As you mentioned, the advantages in editing are much too huge to ignore when working with a soft copy.

2. Joy - November 3, 2007

If I were to ‘write’ I’m much better off typing. Somehow the thoughts just don’t flow when I put the pen to paper and I’m almost always left staring at the blank sheet.

However, I still remain a big fan of writing down quotes and passages from books etc in spiral bound/handmade paper notebooks . Flipping through the pages evokes nostalgia and a screen just won’t do in such cases πŸ™‚

3. Sharath Rao - November 3, 2007

@yhac – “I feel much more comfortable starting a draft on paper, especially if its of a long essay.”

that comes across as unintuitive – esp. on long essays ? must be harder.

Yes, I agree with the sketches thing – which is why i prefer taking notes on paper rather than on a laptop in class…. IF EVER that is πŸ™‚

@joy : I completely disregarded (apparently intentionally πŸ˜€ ) the nostalgia aspect when I wrote that post. I should not have – I remember a friend of mine who almost refused to get on email and expected me to write letters. I obliged actually ! I certainly agree that nostalgia is a powerful driver.

4. Bala - November 3, 2007

While typing is certainly faster than writing on paper for most people, it does not translate to increased productivity. A common example is legal documents. Previously it was hard to get a legal document typed and checked. Hence there were only about three revisions of it. Now, it still takes as much time or longer to get the final draft as people go through as many as twenty revisions, simply because making changes is easy.

5. Sharath Rao - November 3, 2007

@bala – thanks for the comment, this looks like a first time πŸ™‚ welcome too.

“Now, it still takes as much time or longer to get the final draft as people go through as many as twenty revisions, simply because making changes is easy.”

– point taken, but given say 30 minutes to get something done, is a better job done writing vs. typing …

6. rajeshwar - November 4, 2007

I am a better typewriter than a handwriter simply because I use a TVS gold keyboard. i used to be a typist years back and suffer using general keyboards till somene suggested tvse gold keyboards. now i am bidding for the world championships for speed typing.wish me good luck and may india shine.

7. Ganesh Nayak - November 4, 2007

I have done typewriting course (even though I did not give the exam) hence typing was always faster for me than writing. But recently I discovered that I feel more comfortable to first write a draft on paper and then type it out to make further modifications. Somehow, for me, flow of thoughts is smoother on paper than on the keys.

8. Sharath Rao - November 4, 2007

@rajeshwar : good luck to you.

@ganesh : “Somehow, for me, flow of thoughts is smoother on paper than on the keys.”

thats how it used to be for quite a while …i dont know how much of this is individual preferences and how much is abt not having had enough experience with typing as well…for its likely that if one is favorably convinced abt X so strongly that one does not try Y, then he/she continues to remain inefficient/ineffective/or both with Y πŸ™‚

9. Ganesh Nayak - November 6, 2007

@ Sharath
I guess I have tried out both. One more example is the ‘To do’ list. I have tried alternately on comp and paper. But when made on paper the list has more profound effect on organising my work than when on comp. Even while typing blogs, when I get stuck I generally go back to paper. So i guess its individual preference.

10. Sharath Rao - November 6, 2007

“But when made on paper the list has more profound effect on organising my work than when on comp.”

I so agree !! Some things are better kept on paper – the whole idea of switching on your laptop in the middle of the street/bus stand to look up a phone no. does not appeal to me πŸ™‚ But at the same time its easier to lose paper stuff so I store some things on both …

“Even while typing blogs, when I get stuck I generally go back to paper. ”

– Oh no ! that wud be hard man πŸ™‚


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