A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution

Paperback | October 15, 2012

byDennis Baron

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Computers, now the writer's tool of choice, are still blamed by skeptics for a variety of ills, from speeding writing up to the point of recklessness, to complicating or trivializing the writing process, to destroying the English language itself.A Better Pencil puts our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and the internet into perspective, describing how the digital revolution influences our reading and writing practices, and how the latest technologies differ from what came before. The book explores our use ofcomputers as writing tools in light of the history of communication technology, a history of how we love, fear, and actually use our writing technologies - not just computers, but also typewriters, pencils, and clay tablets. Dennis Baron shows that virtually all writing implements - and even writing itself - were greeted at first with anxiety and outrage: the printing press disrupted the "almost spiritual connection" between the writer and the page; the typewriter was "impersonal and noisy" and would "destroy the art ofhandwriting." Both pencils and computers were created for tasks that had nothing to do with writing. Pencils, crafted by woodworkers for marking up their boards, were quickly repurposed by writers and artists. The computer crunched numbers, not words, until writers saw it as the next writingmachine. Baron also explores the new genres that the computer has launched: email, the instant message, the web page, the blog, social-networking pages like MySpace and Facebook, and communally-generated texts like Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary, not to mention YouTube.Here then is a fascinating history of our tangled dealings with a wide range of writing instruments, from ancient papyrus to the modern laptop. With dozens of illustrations and many colorful anecdotes, the book will enthrall anyone interested in language, literacy, or writing.

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From the Publisher

Computers, now the writer's tool of choice, are still blamed by skeptics for a variety of ills, from speeding writing up to the point of recklessness, to complicating or trivializing the writing process, to destroying the English language itself.A Better Pencil puts our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and ...

Dennis Baron is Professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:280 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:October 15, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199914001

ISBN - 13:9780199914005

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Table of Contents

Preface: Technologies of the WordIntroduction1. TeknoFear2. Thoreau's Pencil3. National Handwriting Day4. Writing on Clay5. When WordStar Was King6. Trusting the Text7. Writing on Screen8. Everyone's an Author9. A Space of One's Own10. The Dark Side of the Web11. From Pixels to PencilsWorks Cited