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By Carroll Wilson

Circulation Librarian

For years as a newspaper editor I tried to figure out how so many minor typos and similar errors got into print.

I did a number of experiments where I tried my best to control all the variables, and I finally concluded that the error rate increased when we moved to computer screens, away from typewriters.

I never did find any scientific evidence or study results showing this to be the source of the problem. But, I still firmly believe that there is some sort of disconnect between the working brain and the computer screen that keeps normally error-free people from seeing the mistakes they make. The same sort of problem keeps copy editors from finding errors in the work of others.

I'm certainly prepared to be shown that I have been wrong.

One other effect of the move toward computers and away from typewriters was this: reporters' work was less organized and longer when generated on a computer rather than a typewriter. It was as if they became less thoughtful as they joyously typed away on their stories.

So, I found it interesting that NBC Nightly News reported yesterday evening about a writing teacher in California, I believe, who has his kids do their composing, not on laptops, but on typewriters -- old-fashioned typewriters.

It seems that, like me, he believes that the kind of device affects the end product, and when the device is a computer the end product is not better but worse.

I think people are just more deliberate when they use a typewriter. They're more careful. They're more thoughtful, too.

How nice to know someone somewhere agrees with me.

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