Sunday, December 26, 2010

Technology of Writing: Ease of Reading

In this exercise, you will explore some of the basic "technology" of writing, the inventions that led to the kind of writing system we have today. When people first started writing out words letter by letter, using an alphabet, they did not put spaces between the words. You can see an early example of Greek writing here, and here is an example of early Latin writing.

These ancient forms of writing also did not have upper- and lower-case letters; all the letters were what we would call upper-case. A difference in letter cases was invented in the Middle Ages, but the actual terms upper- and lower-case date to the invention of movable type. Punctuation evolved very slowly over time; you can read about the history of various punctuation marks at Wikipedia, including the period, comma and question mark.

For this exercise, you will try reading some texts that lack different elements of the technology of writing, and then you will write an essay in which you summarize and analyze your experience in reading those texts.

STEP ONE. Get out a sheet of paper / open a document (however you like to take notes) and write down the numbers 1 through 12, one number for each of the examples below. Then, for each example, read through the joke. Rate how hard the joke is to read: easy to read, okay, hard, really hard to read.

STEP TWO. Then, when you have read and rated all of the examples for how easy or hard they are to read, go back and note what is missing in each example: lack of spaces between words, lack of punctuation, non-standard use of upper- and lower-case letters, etc.

STEP THREE. Based on the examples that were hardest for you to read, write a brief essay (300 words min., 1000 words max.), where you explain what visual cues we use when we are reading. Make sure you use specific information from this reading experience in your essay. Post the essay in your blog with the phrase "Ease of Reading" somewhere in the title of the essay. Also, make sure you include a link to this page in your post somewhere, and include an image, too.

If you are not quite sure how to sort out your impressions, here are some questions to think about as you write that essay: What exactly are the things that can go wrong when the usual cues you use when reading are no longer there? When you go back to the examples that were hardest to read, does it help if you read them out loud? Based on your experience here, why do you think we put spaces between words when we write? What makes upper- and lower-case letters useful? What are some of the reasons why we use punctuation? Which punctuation marks seem to be the most useful and why? Did you find it easier to read things written in all-caps or all lower-case, and what could be the reason(s) for that? Can you think of other visual cues we could use to make writing easier to read? If you were going to invent a writing system, what might you do differently, compared to the writing system we use now?

Example 1
During a recent password audit it was found
that a blonde was using the following password MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofy When
they asked her Why are you using such a long
password she replied They told me it had to
be at least eight characters long


Example 2
two campers are walking through the woods when
a huge brown bear suddenly appears in the clearing
about fifty feet in front of them the bear sees the
campers and begins to head toward them the first guy
drops his backpack digs out a pair of sneakers and
frantically begins to put them on the second guy
says what are you doing sneakers wont help you outrun
that bear i dont need to outrun the bear the first
guy says i just need to outrun you


Example 3
threeguysstrandedonadesertislandfindamagiclampcontainin
gageniewh
ograntsthemeachonewishthefirstguywisheshewasof
ftheislandandbackh
omethesecondguywishesthesamethethirdg
uysaysimlonelyiwishmyfrien
dswerebackhere

Example 4
A COUPLE OF HUNTERS ARE OUT IN THE WOODS WHEN ONE
OF THEM FALLS TO THE GROUND HE DOESN'T SEEM TO BE
BREATHING AND HIS EYES ARE ROLLED BACK IN HIS HEAD
THE OTHER GUY WHIPS OUT HIS CELL PHONE AND CALLS
NINE ONE ONE HE GASPS TO THE OPERATOR MY FRIEND IS
DEAD WHAT CAN I DO THE OPERATOR IN A CALM SOOTHING
VOICE SAYS JUST TAKE IT EASY I CAN HELP FIRST LETS
MAKE SURE HES DEAD THERE IS A SILENCE THEN A SHOT
IS HEARD THE GUYS VOICE COMES BACK ON THE LINE HE
SAYS OK NOW WHAT


Example 5
AdoctorsaystohispatientIhavebadnewsandworsenews
Ohdearasksthepat
ientwhatsthebadnewsThedoctorreplies
Thislabreportsaysyouonlyhavetw
entyfourhourstolive
ThatsterriblesaysthepatientHowcanthenewspossibly
be
worseThedoctorrepliesIvebeentryingtocontactyou
sinceyesterday


Example 6
AMANHADSIXCHILDRENANDWASVERYPROUDOFHISACH
IEVEMENTHEWASSOPROUDOFHIMSELFTHATHESTARTE
DCALLINGHISWIFEMOTHEROFSIXINSPITEOFHEROBJ
ECTIONSONENIGHTTHEYWENTTOAPARTYHEDECIDEDT
HATITWASTIMETOGOHOMEANDWANTEDTOFINDOUTIFH
ISWIFEWASREADYTOLEAVEASWELLHESHOUTEDATTHE
TOPOFHISVOICESHALLWEGOHOMEMOTHEROFSIXHISW
IFEIRRITATEDBYHERHUSBANDSLACKOFDISCRETION
SHOUTEDBACKANYTIMEYOUREREADYFATHEROFFOUR


Example 7

A GUY SHOWS UP LATE FOR WORK. THE BOSS
YELLS, "YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE AT EIGHT
O'CLOCK!" HE REPLIES, "WHY? WHAT HAPPENED
AT EIGHT O'CLOCK?"


Example 8
a general noticed one of his soldiers behaving oddly.
the soldier would pick up any piece of paper he found,
frown, and say, "that's not it," and put it down again.
this went on for some time, until the general arranged
to have the soldier psychologically tested. the
psychologist concluded that the soldier was deranged,
and wrote out his discharge from the army. the soldier
picked it up, smiled, and said, "that's it."


Example 9
TWOGUYSAREFISHING.THEFIRSTGUYREELSINHISLI
NEANDSE
ESTHATHESSNAGGEDANOLDBOTTLE.ASHEST
AKINGITOFFTHE
HOOKAGENIEPOPSOUTANDPROMISES
TOGRANTHIMONEWISH.
TURNTHELAKEINTOBEERHESA
YS.THEGENIEGOESPOOFANDT
HELAKETURNSINTOBEE
R.HESAYSTOTHEOTHERGUYSOWHAT
DOYOUTHINK.THE
OTHERGUYSAYSYOUDUMMYNOWWEVEGO
TTOPISSINTHE
BOAT.


Example 10
AManGoesToAPsychiatristAndSaysDocMyBrothersCra
zyHeThink
sHesAChickenTheDoctorSaysWhyDontYouTu
rnHimInTheGuySa
ysWeWouldButWeNeedTheEggs

Example 11
A Guy Tells His Psychiatrist Something Terrible
Has Happened I Was Away On Business And I Emailed
My Wife That Id Be Back A Day Early I Got Home
From The Airport And Found Her In Bed With My
Best Friend I Dont Get It How Could She Do This
To Me Well Says The Psychiatrist Maybe She Didnt
See The Email


Example 12
Therewasonceayoungmanwho,inhisyouth,prof
essedhisdesiretobecomeag
reatwriter.Whena
skedtodefine"great,"hesaid,"Iwanttowrite
stuffthatthewh
oleworldwillread,stuffthat
peoplewillreacttoonatrulyemotionallevel,
stuffth
atwillmakethemscream,cry,andhowli
npainandanger!"HenowworksforMicrosoft,
wr
itingerrormessages.





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