Conference Paper

Improving Systems Documentation Using an Online Copy Editor.

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For the last three years the author has been using Writers Workbench, a UNIX text-editing tool, to edit computer documentation. In this article the author outlines his experiences using the system, noting both the advantages to explore and pitfalls to avoid in using this tool. Writers Workbench is especially useful for improving a writer's basic skills - punctuation, spelling, and grammar. When used effectively, Writers Workbench can cut down on wordiness and improve the consistency of a manual. It can help in the creation of a table of contents, index, glossary, and bibliography and in checking readability. Furthermore, by creating user-defined dictionaries, authors or editors can customize the tool to fit their purposes and styles. However, Writers Workbench is not good at catching problems relating to organization, focus, and clarity.

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On college campuses the microcomputer may have its greatest impact in the area of writing instruction. Clarkson University is developing a panoply of software tools to help students write with more skill and thought. The new programs include a powerful word processor, a spelling checker, authoring systems, numerous pre-writing programs, and computerized prose analyzers. The components of the Clarkson writing system function as an integrated whole, setting a standard for writing packages. Early use of these programs indicates that the computer is making itself indispensable to the writing teacher.