Writing is hard work, but now there is help. Computers and word processing programs are making it easier to share ideas and views with colleagues through the printed media.
There have been over 3,000 books published about personal computing. Two are enthusiastically recommended for anyone who writes. William Zinsserfe Writing with a Word Processor (Harper & Row, 1983, $5.95) is exquisitely written. With warmth, humor, and reassurance, Zinsser describes his experiences learning to write with a word processor. Writing in the Computer Age (by Andrew Fluegelman and Jeremy Joan Hewes, Anchor Books, 1983, $10.95) clearly and concisely describes how writers can use a word processor to create and refine their work. The authors do not rate specific computers or word processing software, but present basic guidelines to assist you in making informed decisions. Both books offer advice on writing style and strategy and include techniques for polishing work and designing an elegant manuscript.
One of the most helpful chapters in the Fluegelman and Hewes book is "Bells and Whistles." It describes the importance and helpfulness of add-on programs to word processing software. A dictionary program proofreads a manuscript with amazing speed, comparing every word with its dictionary. Your word processing software may have a companion spelling checker, but because dictionary programs differ you may want to purchase a more powerful program separately. A good proofreader or dictionary program should allow you to make your own special dictionary, adding or deleting words easily. It should also help find correct spelling if asked.
Another useful program checks your grammar against a dictionary that contains wordy, redundant, misused or overused phrases, and even suggests revisions. It counts the number of times a word is used and collects statistics about word and sentence length in a document. Help in finding a different word with the same or similar meaning can be found through a thesaurus program, which lists the synonyms from which you can choose and use.
Academic writers will find a program called Bibliography* and its companion program, Footnote and Pair, exceedingly helpful and exciting. Depending on how you construct your citations one or both of these programs will take the drudgery out of keeping track of references. Bibliography guides you in developing an electronic library file containing the references you will be citing in your manuscript. It compares all references cited in the text with the library file and then constructs the bibliography in the style you select, placing references either in the order cited or alphabetically. Footnote numbers and formats footnotes in text files prepared by some word processors and puts them on the bottom of the appropriate page. Pair checks files for matching parentheses, brackets, quotation marks, and printer commands such as underlining.
Another program, Notebook, is an exceedingly helpful database management system designed specifically for storing and retrieving text. This program allows you to organize your research notes and sort and retrieve text readily.
WordStar)· users can create reference points to help readers locate information in a document. A companion program, Starindex, easily creates an index, a table of contents, and lists figures and tables.
Find out from your vendor which word processing software is needed for these helpful programs. Finally academic writers have the kind of help previously available only to professional writers.