Thursday, November 29, 2007

Soapbox, I Step Upon Thee

I was pleased to find this posted in the comments section of my previous post:

"I was running very short on words in a piece I'm writing and I found that when I cut and pasted your web log it brought my word count up to exactly what I needed! I'll be back to get more tomorrow. This is an excellent and inexpensive source of words and provides a true public service." —flugmensch

First, thievery is the sincerest form of theft, and I thank you for that. Second, you've hit on something close to my heart when you speak about word shortages, good resources for words and, more specifically, letters. Each day, over the course of writing e-mails, memos and adult personals, people waste hundreds of thousands of millions of hundreds of letters everyday. We all know it is not unusual to mistype, rethink, edit, and misspell words, however too often we turn to the "delete" key as a quick fix for this process. This is needlessly wasteful. Certainly it seems like we have a nearly endless supply of letters but do we know for certain if that supply will someday run dry? Can you promise letters will still be here for your children and your children's children? Do you really know where these letters go when you delete them? The answers to these questions may astound you.

Are letters in short supply? The answer is: we don't know. Think for a moment, however, of the consequences of a letter shortage. There would be no newspapers; dinner menus would become pictures of food with pictures of dollar bills next to them; you wouldn't be able to brandish your favorite clothing retailer's name across your chest or buttocks; street signs and highway exit signs would have to revert back to hieroglyphics. There would be no dictionaries, Bible or Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight-Loss Solution. The web log you're reading wouldn't even exist. Sounds horrible right?

Many people don't consider what happens to letters when they are deleted. Do they simply vanish? Are they stored away electronically for later use? No one knows for sure, but there is growing evidence that these letters are beginning to collect in our atmosphere. Here's an artist's conception:

By now you must be asking yourself: what can I do? The truth is conserving letters is easier than you think. You simply need to retrain your hands and mind to retain any unnecessary letters. You can start by discontinuing use of the delete key. "Delete the delete," as I like to say. This can be difficult at first. You might try gluing a thumbtack to the key to help retrain your hands or you could simply remove the key with a pair of pliers. However you go about it, the delete key is the most important thing to avoid. Think of deleting letters as putting puppies down at the pound: they are not unwanted, they simply need to find the right home. We can do this by using a few devices namely: the arrow keys, cut and paste.

Let's start with the easiest device for letter conservation— the arrow keys. Let's say you're in the midst of typing a sentence:

The brown bear stole my affordoble taco.

Whoops! There was a typo there. The bear was not brown. Now, using the arrow key, run the marquee back to last letter typed in error.

The b|rown bear stole my affordoble taco.

Now retype the correct letters carefully while moving the remaining letters forward in the queue.

The black bear stole my affordoble taco. | rown bear stole my affordoble taco.

Then as you continue writing, simply integrate the remaining letters as needed by scrolling ahead. I will highlight the extra letters as they are used.

The black bear stole my affordoble taco. I ran after him on my own but the bear proved to be too swift to catch. |le my affordoble taco.

You may wish to delete the spaces between the words in the queue to save time. Spaces and returns are made up of what I call "empty energy" and can be removed or replaced without any harm. So we tighten up our queue.

The black bear stole my affordoble taco. I ran after him on my own but the bear proved to be too swift to catch. |lemyaffordobletaco.

We can continue to the end.

The black bear stole my affordoble taco. I ran after him on my own but the bear proved to be too swift to catch. While I was looking forward to eating that taco, I knew my mom would lend me another four or five dollars for another one. So I dobled back for another taco. That's when the brown bear stole my second affordoble taco.

As you can see, it's not just easy, but can aid in good writing as well! But there is another method that can save you even more time. Of course using the letters as they appear in order within the queue is not the most efficient means of writing— in fact it’s doble the work. If we introduce the use of the computer's cut and paste function we can use virtually any of the letters in the queue at any time. Look at this example:

Marty was so very much looking forward to the circus. The elephants, the lions, the tigers— he knew not which would be his favorite. There were people everywhere. The clowns and crowds were out in droves. Suddenly |NbcamerallbilgFraggleRockmomoneylibattmmmmy

Highlighted in bold is the letter queue built up from earlier in the piece. This time we will cut and paste the letters into place. The bold letters in the queue are being placed in bold into the text.

...There were people everywhere. The clowns and crowds were out in droves. Suddenly there NbcamerallbilgFraggleRockmomoneylibattmmmmy

This time pasting a whole word:

...There were people everywhere. The clowns and crowds were out in droves. Suddenly there came | NbcamerallbilgFraggleRockmomonylibatmmmmy


...Suddenly there came a great commotion | NbllblFraggleRckylibmmmmy


...Suddenly there came a great commotion. Roars came from the crowds and soon everyone was running for their lives. “Run!” they cried. Marty did a doble take. He couldn’t believe his eyes. From out of the big top came two bears; their jaws dripping with guacamole and sour cream.

When people are introduced to the principles of letter conservation and the use of cut and paste in particular, many wonder why we simply can’t continually cut and paste as many letters as we want, giving us an endless supply. While this would seem to solve our problem it leads to another, which I call, “clone lettering.”

Let’s look at these two letters:



Look the same don’t they? Except the second letter “t” is a clone letter. It was not typed but was copied and pasted from the first “t.” Cut and paste should only be used to transport letters to their destination not as a tool of letter creation. The problem with clone lettering is that the letters get weaker with each use and eventually weaken the entire letter family. The letters and words in which they are used lose their impact. Let’s look at these two sentences and see if you can spot the clone letters.

1. No, I won’t go!

2. No, no, no, I won’t go— no, no, no, I won’t— no!

Did you spot the clone letters? That’s right! it was the third letter “n” and seventh letter “o” in the second sentence. The first sentence features no clone letters and reads more clearly. Now you can see that avoiding clone letters helps maintain the letters’ strength and therefore aids in letter conservation.

You may find in practice that you’ll have letters left over in your letter queue at the end of your writing. This is only natural but these letters should not be discarded. They can be saved in a separate document for future use. Think of it as herding cows into their pens for later use as McGriddled Doble Cheeseburgers, except that you won’t eat the letters; you’ll reuse them in a letter of complaint to the McDonald’s corporation about your experience eating a McGriddled Doble Cheeseburger. I like to keep my extra letters on a desktop sticky.

Here’s a screen capture of my desktop queue as an example:

You now have all the tools to stop wasting letters and aid the cause of letter conservation. In closing I will add one more way you can help the cause; that is to end unnecessary and frivolous writing. Each and everyday people write long, boring, unending essays and weblogs. Some even write long-winded satires which serve no real purpose other than to waste the readers time in the vain pursuit of a few giggles or guffaws. It is shameful— a disgrace! As a result letters’ talents are wasted; forming a collection of moronic ramblings, not fit for print, but good enough for the internet. We must redoble our efforts to avoid this fluff. Letter conservation begins with writing that is brief, simple, succinct, efficient, concise, laconic, streamlined, and to the point— which is to say, short.

For more information on how you can help contact the Letter Conservation and Preservation Society of Letter Recycling, Reuse and Regeneration of America by Which We Mean the United States of America and Also We Forgot Numbers Too or LCPSoLRRaRoAbWWMtUSoAaAWFNT. We can all do our part.


Alex said...

i am veRye impressad with yore suguesstionS and also finD o that buy igNoring speelin & gramma I can converse moire (almost doble) Lanterns. Thinks you!!

Daniel said...