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Posted by Dr Andus
Sep 28, 2013 at 09:08 AM

 

Cassius wrote:
I’m confused.  What is “distracting” in Word, WordPad, etc.?
>Personally, I like to be able to BOLD, Italic, etc.  I even used Word’s
>capabilities to change the toolbars, for example creating a “hanging
>indent” capability.  Maybe my brain just works differently.

It is very likely that people differ in terms of their capacity to concentrate and their propensity to be distracted (like light sleepers vs. deep sleepers).

But also, you are describing a word processing task, not a creative writing task. There is a big difference between e.g. typing up the minutes of some meeting and formatting them, and sustained creative writing all day long, every single day, all year long.

Concentration becomes a very precious resource and anything that produces distraction (such as the “toolness” of the writing tool) undermines your productivity. In fact most formatting decisions and actions disrupt the focus on writing, which is why Markdown is great, as you don’t need to interrupt your typing to reach for the mouse when you need to make something bold or italics or turn into a block quote.

 


Posted by Dr Andus
Sep 28, 2013 at 10:22 AM

 

Dr Andus wrote:
Cassius wrote:
>I’m confused.  What is “distracting” in Word, WordPad, etc.?
>>Personally, I like to be able to BOLD, Italic, etc.
>Dr Andus wrote:
>But also, you are describing a word processing task, not a creative
>writing task.

Incidentally, I don’t even think MS Word is that great at formatting. I’ve just spent two very frustrating weeks editing a 10k-word article in Word, where Word constantly reversed my decisions about the formatting of headings and block quotes, such as renumbering headings when I didn’t tell it to do so or seemingly randomly inserting or eliminating spaces from between the section number and the start of the heading, or just undoing my block quote indentation, when I updated the styles.

I got so frustrated that now I’m contemplating learning LaTex for writing, formatting and typesetting my documents (I have no need for maths formulas), to get complete control over the look. It would be great if this could be done in Markdown, but MD seems to be more oriented toward web output then typeset documents.

Here is an interesting article in this regard entitled “Word Processors: Stupid and Inefficient” and with headings such as “The evils of WYSIWYG:”

“1. The author is distracted from the proper business of composing text, in favor of making typographical choices in relation to which she may have no expertise (“fiddling with fonts and margins” when she should be concentrating on content).

2. The typesetting algorithm employed by WYSIWYG word processor sacrifices quality to the speed required for the setting and resetting of the user’s input in real time. The final product is greatly inferior to that of a real typesetting program.

3. The user of a word processor is under a strong temptation to lose sight of the logical structure of the text and to conflate this with superficial typographical elements.”

http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html

 


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Sep 28, 2013 at 11:02 AM

 

Dr Andus wrote:
>Concentration becomes a very precious resource and anything that
>produces distraction (such as the “toolness” of the writing tool)
>undermines your productivity. In fact most formatting decisions and
>actions disrupt the focus on writing, which is why Markdown is great, as
>you don’t need to interrupt your typing to reach for the mouse when you
>need to make something bold or italics or turn into a block quote.

This is the argument for Markdown that I don’t really get. When I’m in “creative” mode, I’m not even thinking about what needs to be bold or italic. It’s only afterward, after I’ve edited the piece and gotten it to the point where I’m satisfied, that I go in and add italics or bold. To me it is just as distracting to the creative flow to add Markdown while I’m writing than it is to use a word processor’s tools for formatting. And it may be more so even, as I find __characters__ like that more distracting, plus I have to mentally work to see __double-underscores__ as indicating italics. Granted it is helpful to see ordered and bulleted lists, and block quotes for what they are as I’m editing.

Most people who are creating documents for others to read, don’t have access to typography programs beyond their word processors. That Word makes it difficult and/or frustrating (which I wholly agree it does), shouldn’t be the argument for or against Markdown, it’s really just an argument for avoiding Word whenever you can.

I’m not arguing against Markdown. For me—and I fully acknowledge most of this is personal preference—the advantage of Markdown is that it is a way to add formatting to plain text, and writing in plain text, the creative part, to me is more productive. Of course, that is related to the formatting. In plain text, you don’t have to be seduced into adding the formatting as you compose your work, but—coming full circle—if I’m trying to add Markdown formatting as I go, that is just as distracting to me. So I have been doing more of my personal writing in Ulysses III on my MacBook. When I’m at the office on my Windows PC, I often write in Notetab. At work, I CAN export (usually copy and paste) my writing into a desktop publishing program for formatting and layout.

Anyway, great discussion!

Steve Z.

 


Posted by Franz Grieser
Sep 28, 2013 at 11:30 AM

 

>In fact most formatting decisions and
>actions disrupt the focus on writing, which is why Markdown is great, as
>you don’t need to interrupt your typing to reach for the mouse when you
>need to make something bold or italics or turn into a block quote.

You do not need to interrupt your typing to make sth. bold or italics or underline words or apply heading templates: Word, LibreOffice et.al. have keyboard shortcuts for that.

Franz

 


Posted by Cassius
Sep 28, 2013 at 01:18 PM

 

At my age, or maybe it’s my laptop’s age, my biggest problem is hitting the correct keys on the keyboard.

Other than relatively short messages, I haven’t written fiction or “prose” since college.  All of my extensive writing has been technical…the creativity came in developing statistical and mathematical methodology to analyze/evaluate safety data to assess how effective safety programs or innovations were or to predict the likely outcomes of same.

I still use Word 2000, or for simple things WordPad.  Yes, sometimes Word would aggravate me, but not too often.  My BIGGEST problem came when I discovered that the email system we were using at the FAA would actually CHANGE a Word document that I had emailed to someone.  I would get a call from a recipient asking why I wrote something in a particular way.  I replied that I had not.  I finally started sending all of my Word documents on CDs rather than via email.  (In DOD/Win 2000 days I used GrandView for almost all of my writing.)

By the way, the best English thesaurus is “The Synonym Finder.”  It’s old and not available electronically, but is still the best.  (I’ve repeatedly nagged the publisher to put it in electronic form, to no avail.)  I once said to an editor, “Let me tell you what is the best thesaurus.”

She replied, “It’s there on the shelf.”

I looked, and said, “You’re right!”

 


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