Good Writing Calls for a Pen or Pencil

Well before computers ended the clack-clack-clack of the typewriter, Post editors warned of the risks of machine-enhanced writing.

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Herbert Spencer admits in his autobiography that the habit of dictating spoiled his style and made him diffuse. And we have only to glance at the work of any of the literary “artists” who use the typewriter to put their thoughts on paper to see that facility breeds slovenliness.

Typewriting and stenography are the wonderful, invaluable aids to the mind of today. But they can be abused. If the man has anything to set down that calls for clearness and terseness of style and exact expression of exact meaning, he will do well to shut himself in with pen or pencil and work out his problem in the old laborious way. Then let him send the results to the typewriter, in order that who must read shall not have to share in his labor.

—“Returning to the Pen,” Editorial, April 15, 1905

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This article is featured in the May/June 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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