21st Century Writing: From Typewriters to Keyboards

by Julie Zeglen

Writing for the Internet requires some adjustments for those who first learned to type on a typewriter. Today’s readers are tech-savvy, which requires writers to know their technical stuff, too. It is important to keep aware of the latest typing standards so that your work is accessible, easily understood, and eye-catching.

The rule for beginning a new sentence used to be that two spaces were needed after every period. This method is far outdated: according to Farhad Manjoo in an article on Slate.com, typewriters once made every letter equal in width, but with the dawn of the modern computer, proportional type in which a small letter like “I” would take up less space than a large one like “W” became the norm. With the change, extra spaces were no longer needed to clearly differentiate between sentences. Manjoo also makes the point that spaces promote mental pauses to the reader, whereas writing should follow smoothly. Single-spacing throughout maintains a clean look and encourages uninterrupted reading.

Caps lock should be avoided at all costs. Do you hear me, readers? AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS!!! In all seriousness, though, typing in capitals implies that you are shouting at your audience – and nobody wants to feel as if they are being reprimanded by a blog post, an email or a website article. Supposedly, Google’s new laptop, the Cr-48 notebook, has completely done away with the caps lock key; in its place is a search button, leaving anyone who wants every word capitalized to use only shift. This will require some creativity for those who rely on caps lock to emphasize for them. Similarly, exclamation points imply an urgency that is better expressed through word choice than punctuation.

Electronic writing is meant to be more interactive, so adding links to other pages that further describe your topic is a good way to help the reader expand their learning without having to describe it in detail yourself. This will not only save you time but also broaden the scope of your writing. Remember that in print underlining is used to signify book titles, but on the Internet it means a hyperlink.

Typing standards such as uniformity of appearance may be programmed into your computer’s basic document template. Microsoft Word 7 comes with such criteria as margins that are 1” by 1.25”; font is the easy-to-read Calibri, size 11; and paragraphs that are separated by a line space.

Everything evolves. You may have learned to type and now you keyboard. You indented paragraphs and now you add a line space. While all change takes some adjustment, we can all relish our freedom from stuck typewriter keys, carbon paper, and correction ribbons.

Julie Zeglen is an undergraduate student at Temple University studying communications and psychology. She is a communications intern at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association.

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