Electronic Typewriters and the Very Ragged Right

Transcribed below.

Electronic typewriters usually have an option for automatic carriage return. If you’re used to computer word processors, your right margins may seem more ragged than you expect. That’s because your typewriter uses typewriter logic to determine where to start a new line.

Computer word processors think backward from the right margin: they drop the first word that would pass that limit down to the next line.

A typewriter doesn’t know what you’re going to type next, so once the end-of-line warning has sounded, it drops to the next line the first time you type a space or hyphen.

This makes lines both shorter and longer than what you’re used to. If the end-of-line warning has sounded and the next word is “of,” it will still go to the next line, even though “of” would fit on this one. On the other hand, a long word that starts right before the end- of-line warning will continue to print past the right margin, and in extreme cases off the edge of the paper.

Even typewriters that have a memory mode, where you can store a whole page or more before printing it, use this typewriter logic to determine line breaks. You’ll have to accept some very ragged right margins.

This article was written on a Smith Corona SD 760 “Memory Typewriter” in memory mode, so it’s a good demonstration of how an electronic typewriter handles line breaks.

One response to “Electronic Typewriters and the Very Ragged Right”

  1. […] The typewriter is a Smith Corona SL 500 with the Regency 10 printwheel that came with the machine. The printwheel was advertised in Smith Corona literature as “Regency 10/Courier 10.” The typewriter was set for automatic carriage return, which accounts for the very ragged right margin. […]

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What Is This Place?

There is a certain amusing dissonance about a site on the Web whose theme is writing by making marks on paper. But that is not the only dissonance you will find here. This is a supplement to Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine, and we’ll have long digressions on random subjects, instructional articles about writing instruments, and even poetry—but everything will be written out on paper, and only then published to the electronic world at large.