Thursday, March 26, 2009

This way and tha about:

I've been experimenting with something, and I think it's interesting enough to talk about. Suppose you had written this phrase: “she looked this way and that.” You decide to change it to: “she looked about.” How do you type in your edit?

Chances are you will highlight the words 'this way and that' and type 'about'. The new word will replace the highlighted ones, unless you're using a bizarre editor. Done.

But you retyped the 't' at the end of the phrase, didn't you? Isn't that a waste? Over a lifetime, those extra keystrokes will add up. And it gets worse. If you want to replace 'exacerbated' by 'stimulated', should you carefully highlight 'exacerb' and type 'stimul'?

There are two really interesting issues at play here. The first is that your word processor is likely to make it easier to highlight full words. So you have to consider that highlighting just part of a word wastes time, unless you get really good at it. The other issue is that you can probably type 'stimulated' faster than you can type 'stimul'. You have a finger memory for words and word-parts that you have typed over and over. You can type them again, fast, without thinking. The business of typing partial words requires thought.

Nonetheless, I'm trying to do it; I would type 'stimul'. The key to productivity here is planning ahead. Although I can normally type 'stimulated' faster than 'stimul', that's not the case if I think ahead about exactly what I need to type. And I have time to think ahead, while I'm highlighting the letters to replace!

This little blog entry has wasted all the time I could possibly save in my life, with all these editing shenanigans. So there!
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