Whether you write articles or books, word processing can save you time and trouble and result in more professional, error-free typescripts. As Brian Barry explains in his "Some Pitfalls in Journal Publishing" in this volume, the care with which a submission is prepared does subtly influence editors and referees. And not only can word processing help improve the appearance and standardize the format of your article or book proposal; by making it much easier for you to revise what you have written, it can help improve the substance of your work as well. Since getting published requires beating out the competition, why not use every advantage you can muster?
For those who aren't familiar with the functions that word processing can streamline, here are some tasks that can standardly be accomplished quickly and easily with a word processor: deleting, changing or inserting words, sentences or paragraphs; moving a word, sentence or paragraph earlier or later in the paper; searching for a word or phrase; searching for and then changing one word or phrase to another; generating a table of contents or index; heading each page with the correct page number and the paper or chapter title; numbering footnotes consecutively and printing them out either at the bottom of pages or at the end of the manuscript.
Suppose, for example, you reread your paper before sending it off and realize that you really need one more footnote in the middle of the paper and that a certain example you used weakens the paper and could be omitted. Without word processing, you would have to choose between retyping your very neatly prepared paper, inserting and deleting as you can or sending the paper off as it is. The first option is so much trouble that you would most likely choose the second or third. But with word processing, you can go back to the computer, delete your example and add the extra footnote and print out a seamless new copy with the pages and footnotes automatically renumbered in a half hour or so. Or, suppose you would like to send a paper that was rejected by an American journal to a British one, and you know that the latter requests single quotation marks where you had used double ones. Is it worth the trouble to make the change? Again, with word processing you need only execute one command to substitute the new style throughout the paper.
Learning word processing does take some time, of course, but you needn't fear that it will be too difficult for you. Anyone who can pass an introductory logic course can master the maneuvers necessary to turn ideas into neat computer printouts. It needn't take an investment of money, either. If you have a teaching job, chances are that you may use your college's computers. There may even be workshops that teach word processing, and usually assistants at the computer center will be able to help you when you can't decipher some dire-sounding error message.
If you decide to buy your own computer, on the other hand, you won't have to compete with students for computer time. If you haven't purchased anything yet, check first to see if any companies offer discounts on hardware or software through your college. We can't tell you which brand of computer or word processing program will best suit your needs, but we do have one very strong general recommendation when it comes to printers: buy a letter-quality printer. Dot-matrix printers, the kind that form letters out of small dots rather than by striking a key with a formed letter on it against a page, are faster and can easily print out special symbols and italics, but most journal and book editors despise them. This is not a baseless prejudice. Dot-matrix printouts are significantly harder on the eyes than letter-quality printouts. Also, many typesetters refuse to accept dot-matrix printouts because the differences between certain letters are not very distinct. If you already have a dot-matrix printer, try to arrange access to a letter-quality printer for your final drafts. (These comments may not apply to a few of the newest dot-matrix printers, which have a nearly letter-quality "letter-quality mode.")
One other feature of many word-processing systems that can be hard on the eyes is justification. You may get excited about the ability to make right as well as left margins even, thinking that it will make your typescripts more professional-looking. Unless your word processor also has automatic hyphenation, however, even margins on both sides create very uneven spaces between words that can tire out and slow down the reader. Editors are accustomed to so-called "ragged-right" margins, and most prefer them.
To help make your printout error-free, you should consider using a spell checker, a program that singles out words in your manuscript that do not match those in a dictionary. In preparing this book, we found a spell checker useful for catching typing errors and words without the necessary space between them. If a spell checker includes a way for the user to add words to its list of correctly spelled words, you're better off using your own copy of the program; at Smith College, the Computer Center's spell checker included a great many misspelled words that careless users had entered into the program! And in any case, never rely on a spell checker to do your proofreading for you; always read a paper over carefully before you submit it. No spell checker can catch improper punctuation, omitted words or sentences, mistakes that happen to constitute a different correctly spelled word, like "if" for "it," or the substitution of homonyms, like "bazaar" for "bizarre." Some spell checkers include a routine that counts words, helpful for making sure that you are under a journal's recommended word limit.
Some people fear -- reasonably, in fact -- that long hours staring at a computer's video screen may ruin their eyes. There are ways to forestall that possibility. Try to use a monitor with good screen resolution and take frequent breaks, at least once an hour, to rest your eyes. Many people prefer to edit their own work by making corrections on a printout and entering the corrections later rather than by correcting the copy directly on the screen; this also cuts down on eyestrain. Others continue to write out a first draft in longhand and use the computer only for later drafts. In our view, word processing is a tool for productivity, and anyone who writes should try to figure out the best way for him or her to make the new technology serve that goal.
This entire book was prepared in 1986 on Corona ("IBM clone") and IBM personal computers, using XyWrite, The Word Plus and Idea Processor (now available as Executive Filer) software and printed on a Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printer using a Times- Roman font.