Equipped with amazing tools and word processing software, a computer can help you incredibly with your writing process. Ideally, if you want to use computer as a writing aid, you must know touch-typing; if you cannot touch type, it is recommended that you practice touch-typing before you actually use a computer for word processing.
Before you determine on computer as a writing aid, you must understand that you computer is a machine with a great memory, but with little or no intelligence. It can certainly make the writing process easier, but you must be prepared to do the thinking at each and every stage of the writing process. Needless to mention, you must think and plan beforehand, as you do when you write on paper with a pen. You must make notes, prepare and design an outline for your academic writing.
Given below is a brief overview on how computers can be used effectively at each and every stage of the writing process:
Use A4 size paper for writing, as it is the standard for most academic and formal writings.
It is recommended that students leave a margin of 40mm in the left, and 25mm margins of the right, top and bottom of each page.
Computers are an amazing research tool, especially with the advent of Internet. You can use Internet to find and order textbooks; alternatively, you can also find innumerable Internet resources to draw on relevant ideas, thus adding to the quality of your writing.
In any type of formal writing, it is best to employ a standard typeface, which inadvertently implies that all italic typefaces should be avoided in formal writing.
Students should leave double spacing in between lines and should print on only one side of the paper.
It is best to use a professional font such as Times New Roman, Cambria or Calibri; irrespective of the font used, font size 12 should be used. A sans serif typeface such as Arial is recommended for the numberings on tables, drawings as well as diagrams.
Exactly as you would do while writing a handwritten copy, begin with your name and the date. However, if you are working on a long composition such as a project report, then you have to prepare separate covers, titles as well as content pages for each section. Ideally, students are supposed to begin each section with a section heading on the top of a fresh sheet of paper. You should only center-align main headings and not sub-headings.
For different level of headings, use different tools to emphasize. For instance, use capitals for primary headings, bold or italics for secondary headings and so on.
When it comes to developing ideas through free writing or outlining, a word processor can work wonders for you. You do run the risk of losing important ideas in the form of paper and hence are sure of securing all your ideas and thoughts.
The best part of using computers as a writing tool is that it bestows writers with incredible ease, especially when it comes to the bibliography or the reference section. One just needs to create a bibliography file while reading, which can simply be pasted into your essay at a later stage, thus leaving no room for formatting errors.
The typed text on the screen looks deceptively orderly; however, one must take printouts and go through the content critically to find errors and lack of logic, lucidity and clarity.
Of course, you should make the most of in-built word processing tools such as Spell and Grammar Checkers; however, one must understand that these spelling and grammar checkers are not immune to mistakes, and more often than not are bent to ignore some very common errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling.
Computers can be of great help in the proofreading and editing stage, especially if you want to restructure your essay or academic writing, a simple function such as cut and paste can make your job much easier than it actually is.
Also, if you are looking for a specific point in your writing, you can simply use the search function in computers to find it, which is much less time-consuming than finding it manually on a hand-written sheet of paper. This function is also extremely useful in checking if you have over-used a specific word or term in your writing. If you find that you have used a word quite a few times, then you can use synonyms to simply replace it with a word with the same meaning, thus enhancing the quality of your writing.
It is very important to back up for your file; this is especially crucial, as it will help you in the case of a hard-disk failure; it is best to save a second copy of your work in a CD, so that you can use it in the instance of system failure. It also bestows you with the flexibility of working from another computer.
Contrary to the popular belief, using computers as a writing tool is not just about the appearance of your essay. Of course, a well-formatted essay looks much better than a hand-written essay; but word processing has much more to do with the quality of content than its appearance. It helps you with a number of tools that help you in minimizing errors as well as enhancing the content of your essay or academic writing.
Very often, students in spite of working very hard are not able to submit their essays to their professors or instructors because they are not able to make it to the class for some particular reason. However, computers are a boon in such a situation, as you simply need to send an email to the concerned person with you essay or academic writing as an attachment, and your job is done.
To sum it all, computers as a writing tool have advantages as well as disadvantages; however, advantages of computers as a writing tool outdo the disadvantages with quite an edge. Computers help students in each and every stage of writing, be it note taking, outlining, writing, proofreading or editing. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that computer is a machine that students cannot afford to ignore any longer, especially as it bestows you with the flexibility to print off a second copy if your dog has just gulped your hard-work of many nights.
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