But Don’t the Mistakes Prove I’m Sincere?

Transcribed below. The typewriter is the 1950 Royal Quiet de Luxe.

Typing Neatly

Let a hundred flowers bloom: that has always been Dr. Boli’s way of dealing with any questions of personal preference. He believes that inflexible dogmatism is seldom productive of anything but equally inflexible counterdogmatism.

So he is not about to tell you that there is a correct way to use a typewriter for publishing writing on the Web. The correct way to do it is the way that amuses you the most. What Dr. Boli will do, though, is tell you his preferences and attempt to explain them, if not to justify them.

Many typewriter bloggers value the typewriter precisely because of its immediacy. Text written on a typewriter shows their thoughts in action. Mistakes in typing are part of the charm of the process.

There is nothing wrong with presenting your thoughts to the world that way if it appeals to you. It simply does not strike Dr. Boli as the way he would like to present himself. To him it feels the same way going to the grocery store in his pajamas would feel. On the one hand, it is true that no one expects a high sartorial standard in the grocery store. On the other hand, it is a public place. One should be at least minimally presentable. Dr. Boli himself has never felt fully dressed in a T-shirt with a slogan on it; such things may perhaps be worn in the garden, but not to venture into the world where strangers might see.

There is something very similar about appearing in print in a state that is less than presentable. On the one hand, who expects text from a mechanical typewriter to be absolutely perfect? But, on the other hand, perhaps it should not appear in public in its pajamas.

This is the instinctive argument, as we may call it, for trying to present typewritten text with as few errors as possible. There are other arguments as well. The one that appeals to Dr. Boli the most is the artistic argument: the typewriter helps us produce better writing when we use its limitations to our advantage.

In the old days of pens and typewriters, the last stage of composition was the fair copy—the copy that would be sent to one’s correspondent or one’s printer. The draft could be marked up with whatever quaint hieroglyphics made sense to the author, but making the fair copy meant translating the draft into a form that ordinary human readers could interpret without having access to the inner workings of the author’s mind.

Putting the manuscript in a presentable form therefore meant turning one’s mind outward, thinking from the point of view of the audience. This is a very useful exercise, and although it is in theory possible to do the same thing while writing with a computer merely by forcing one’s mind to turn in that direction, in practice the mind is more likely to be forced by external circumstances than by internal resolution. Making the fair copy is the external circumstance that turns the mind outward.

This means that one may end up typing the same thing three times over, because making the fair copy ended up creating extensive revisions that will themselves have to be typed over to get them looking neat. But, as David McCullough explained when well-meaning friends told him how much faster he could work if he gave up his typewriter for a computer, “If anything, I probably ought to go more slowly.”

These are two reasons why one might want to make it a rule that typewritten work ought to look presentable before it appears on the Web. Doubtless there are equally good arguments for the opposite opinion, but this is the choice Dr. Boli has made.

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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.