The Skidmore Guide to Writing

Writing on a Computer

Like most students entering college today, you probably have grown up writing on a computer. You know the features of your computer's software and hardware. However, given the pressures of writing college papers and the stress of deadlines, you may find these practical suggestions helpful.

  1. Plan ahead for an assignment. Have enough printer paper, check your printer's ink cartridge or ribbon, and keep a supply of diskettes formatted for your personal computer.
  2. Always back up and save your work. Even if your computer automatically saves your files, you should save a back-up copy of important work on a diskette.
  3. Don't wait until the last minute to print your paper. Give yourself plenty of time to make sure you have printed a clear copy to give to your professor.
  4. Make sure you're using compatible diskettes for your computer, especially when working in a public computer cluster. Check to see that you have PC-formatted diskettes for a PC cluster and Mac-formatted diskettes for an Apple cluster.
  5. When using the College's public cluster computer facilities, avoid last-minute work. These facilities include Harder Hall, the Lanzit Center for Computers and Writing in Palamountain 302, Scribner Library, and residence hall lounges. College personnel work hard to maintain these clusters, but public access computers are more susceptible to computer viruses than your own computer, and printers are more apt to be out of paper, toner, or ink. Never save your work permanently on a hard drive in a public cluster. Anyone can read it, and there is no guarantee that it will be saved on the hard drive when you return. Always save work done in a public cluster on your own diskette and run a virus check on your diskette.
  6. Be cautious when you use error-checking tools. The built-in grammar and style-checkers are far less reliable than spell-checkers. When using a spell-checker, remember that your computer will not catch incorrect homonyms (It'shts, affect/effect). Use your word processor's Search function to locate specific types of usage errors (it's/its, your/you're).
  7. Proofread both on the screen and on hard copy. Some online editors suggest that you start at the bottom of a file and read backward, one sentence at a time, so that you do not get caught in the flow of ideas and can spot errors.
  8. Use a reasonable point size. Your professors will know you are padding a paper by using a 16-point font. Neatness is important, but do not substitute slick graphics for content.
  9. Remember that you must cite work that you take from the World Wide Web. In the section on Documentation, you'll find information about correct citation.
  10. Learn to evaluate what is available on the World Wide Web. Not everything on the Internet is appropriate for college work. Remember: anyone can set up a Web page with information that looks authoritative. As you search for material on the Web, pay attention to the source or sponsor. The library staff is a good resource to help you evaluate material and Web sites.
  11. Number pages and separate scrolled paper.

The Center for Information Technology Services in Harder Hall maintains a help desk to assist you with computer questions.

E-mail: or call X5900.