Question: How does word processing affect the writing process?
Answer/Quote: “The qualitative data from the interviews also indicate that participants felt using the computer affected their composing and editing strategies.
“Participants described the influence of the computer on their composing strategies in this way: ‘When I’m on the computer, I work out text as I go, and it’s much mushier.’ And another added. ‘The computer is fast; I evolve a text rather than draft a text.’ Thus, the follow-up interviews with participants indicated that they were willing to plan less and write, in Elbow’s (1973) terms, more freely when using the computer. For example, when writing at the computer more than half the participants said they had begun without a plan and were willing to just ‘see how it [the text] would go.’ One writer, for instance, noted that she ‘would begin a sentence, discover it was not so wonderful and rewrite immediately.’ Said another, ‘I can enter nearly as quickly as I can think,’ and still another added in praise of the computer, ‘The UNDO command lets you try out ways of saying things.’ Thus writers pointed to the speed and facilitating power of the computer, the machine lending itself to a try-it-out pattern…..” p. 415.
Comment: Other research has pointed out that writers who use word processing plan less than those who write with paper and pen/pencil. I can also recognize that students who use word processing “write and edit as they go,” rather than writing a draft and then going back to revise and edit. On the other hand, a good many writers say that getting the draft down as quickly as possible helps to complete the composition, whereas editing and revising as you go may keep you from producing a finished product.
I think the meaning of this research is that we should not be too hasty in abandoning paper and pen/pencil writing. Students should experience both word processing and paper and pen/pencil to determine what works best for them. Or a combination of both. I have found that when I do not know what I am going to write, I use paper and pen/pencil. When I write memos which I have already thought through I compose on the computer. RayS.
Title: “A Study of Professional and Experienced Writers Revising and Editing at the Computer and with Pen and Paper.” Jean A Lutz. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 398-421.