Friday, December 09, 2011

From Writing-it-Out/Keyboard to Dictation/Keyboard to Dictation/Dragon: Part I

By the time I graduated from law school, I had done a lot of writing. My tools were the pencil, writing paper, a portable electric type-writer from Sears that I acquired at the end of my senior year in high school, index cards, scissors, scotch tape, and, toward the latter part of my student career, photo-copy machines. I didn't do very well using the type-writer directly. Instead, I usually "wrote-out" a first draft, made some annotations and changes directly on that draft, and then transcribed that draft to a type-written text. As I typed I would make more changes.

Next, on the clean type-written draft, I made more changes and corrections with my pencil. I would make more changes until the draft became messy, at which point I typed another transcription. I might go through several cycles of typing and hand-writing on the typed transcript. During these cycles I would often cut up the manuscript into paragraph pieces, rearrange the paragraphs, and then tape the thing together.

When the paper involved research, as it often did, I had index cards on which I wrote quotations from various sources. I would scotch tape the index cards into the right place during the cycle. Photocopy machines were just coming in, and Duke had a copy center, so I began to take books over to the center, especially library books, to get copies made of certain pages. I would take the scissors to those pages and scotch-tape slices to the current draft.

When I was working on a big paper at Duke, I used a type-writing service. There were secretaries in the administration offices who would take one's draft home and type it up for a fee. So as I was cycling through the process of producing the paper, I might get to the point where I would take my last type-written draft, one on which I had made relatively few and legible changes by hand, to one of these secretaries for a close-to final draft, get it back, decide whether it was good enough (it was never good enough on an absolute basis, but it was often good enough in terms of the time had left before I had to turn it in), and then either use it or cycle back one more time to the secretary for the final. One advantage to the secretary was that I could get away from the paper for awhile, and then get back with my mind refreshed to a nice, clean, professionally produced manuscript.

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