The Draft is Obsolete: The Word Processor and the Writing Process

The concept of the draft is obsolete, in both academic and creative writing, if drafting is a process of rewriting a work anew, recreating and reforming what has already been written in a wholly new text. A “draft” these days is one point at which writing is saved or printed out. Writing now consists of changing a single, fluid text that grows, contracts and changes (as is happening to this post even now, if you could only see it happening as I do). Writing classes that teach first draft, second draft and final draft and do not show students how to use the word processor to revise a text are outdated.

If I analyze the ways I learned to write with a word processor, the ways that I am writing now, I can suggest some uses for the computer in teaching important writing techniques. They could hunt down vague subjects in their writing (like “they” in this clause) and replace these unclear subjects with specific, concrete terms (like “students,” no, make that “composition students”). Composition students can also look through their own work for locations were active verbs are in hiding in the form of abstractions and they can do a rewriting of the sentence with a utilization of the verb whose recovery was made. Scratch that. Composition students can locate active verbs hiding in abstract nouns (like “location,” “rewriting” and “utilization”) and rewrite the sentence utilizing the recovered verbs.

Passive verb forms can be identified and reformed into the active voice. Make that, students can identify and reform passive verbs (like “can be identified and reformed”) into the active voice. Students can add to their writing. Make that, students can work on expanding their writing, clarifying and explaining when necessary, breaking down their arguments into smaller steps (I added this later), and supporting their paragraphs with more facts, examples and details. The word processor is definitely the ideal tool for teaching students a variety of different exercises to give them an opportunity to practice removing or cutting away any unnecessary words or redundancies, any dead weight, from their writing so that they are left with only the basic, most important, core ideas of the sentence. Let’s try that again: A variety of exercises could offer students practice deleting unnecessary words from their writing.

Writers may use word processors to play with structure, cutting and pasting, moving the pieces of the writing around to see how the argument changes. (This was the first sentence when I began this paragraph, now it is near the end.) Finally, teachers could encourage students to read their nearly-final drafts aloud to each other, making changes in word choice and order whenever they hear something awkward, rewriting whenever something is unclear. (I often read my own writing aloud.)

Part of my longer technoliteracy autobiography: Technobabble: The Digital Life of Ronosaurus.

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