3.1043 quality of writing, cont. (92)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 13 Feb 90 20:39:08 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1043. Tuesday, 13 Feb 1990.

Date: Tue, 13 Feb 90 10:32:59 EST

The following postings originally appeared in

Info-Mac Digest Mon, 12 Feb 90 Volume 8 : Issue 27


Date: Wed, 07 Feb 90 14:19:50 EST
From: Mark Seidenberg <INMK%MUSICB.MCGILL.CA@forsythe.stanford.edu>
Subject: why Johnny can't write?

About the professor who thinks that Macintoshes breed poorer
writing than IBMs: Sounds like an artifact to me, probably
related to how the papers looked, not their content. In
general, Macintosh output looks nicer than IBM output. This
could have 2 effects on judged quality of writing:

1. people do less editing on papers when the printed output
looks good. There is an illusion, familiar to people who have
switched from dot-matrix printers to laser-printing, that
papers that LOOK like nice crisp final versions must BE final
versions. I mean, the moon looks bigger when it's closer to the
horizon, but that doesn't mean it really IS.

2. similarly, the professor could have had a worse impression
of the Macintosh papers because there was a bigger
discrepancy between how they looked (great, all those nice
type fonts and styles) and how they read (cruddy, just like the
IBM-produced ones).

So, to do the experiment properly, you'd have to let the
students use different computers to compose the texts, but
print them out in a common format (e.g., same type font, same

Don't education professors have better things to spend their
time on? Like why Johnny can't READ?

Mark Seidenberg


Date: Wed, 07 Feb 90 13:56:02 CST
From: UC445252%UMCVMB.BITNET@forsythe.stanford.edu
Subject: Writing on Macs vs PCs

According to Graeme's synopsis of Halio's article, Mac's cause poor writing as
verified by a test with no control whatsoever. Even with my single course in
statistics I can sense this travesty of justice! It may be fair to say that
writers with lesser skill may be attracted the ease of the Macintosh. This can
make the process of writing (which is VERY painful to those of us who are poor
writers) almost pleasant.

It may even be assumed that "Good writers" (people who feel good about their
writing, people who have been writing for quite a while because they feel good
about it) have been using IBM type "archaic" word-processors since before Macs
were readily available. Naturally, people tend to stick with software that
they are used to. Easier-to-use software may not be preferable to I-already-
know-how-to-use software.

Be careful, utilities such as VAX text analysis may seem to give credibility
to such a study, but the results are meaningless with the shoddy testing used.
You could have experts scan this BITNOTE for days, and there would be no way
to tell whether the poor writing was because of factor A (poor writing skills)
or factor B (an easy-to-use word-processor).

Macintosh should be commended for making writing an easier and less painful
experience. More people write down their ideas, now that we have Macs. (I
realize I have no proof, but I'm not publishing an article) Without them, we
(poor writers) find ways around writing.

P.S. Please ignore the spelling and grammar used in this BITNOTE, it was
composed on an IBM mainframe, where it is seldom worth the effort needed
to proofread and spell-check!

Outraged by the ignorance and injustice of this "study" (I use the term