Green Squiggly Lines:

Writing Without Fear circa 1982: Word Processing

The one area of revision that some rhetoric and composition researchers noted as a problem area for students working with word processors was what Mimi Schwartz (1982) called "smokescreen revision" (p. 29). When using word processors, Schwartz found that some students tended "to think that nice appearances cover up flaws in meaning, and that face lifting changes are a substitute for changes in meaning" (p. 29). In smokescreen revision, word processors became a tool where students could play with the surface of a text-fonts, formatting, the size of the margins-instead of their work's meaning. Schwartz's criticism of smokescreen revision, however, is not a complete condemnation of word processors. Rather, she like Collier was arguing for a balanced approach to using word processors to foster revision. She saw word processors as enabling student writers to escape some of the labor-intensive processes associated with thorough revision, but Schwartz also cautioned that the use of commercial word processors did not guarantee that students would engage in activities that required the rethinking of their thesis or a reorganization of their essay. A teacher's reading, formative responses, and final evaluation were still needed to push the students into deep revisions.