Writing for Electronic Submission
If you are submitting papers electronically for grading, you should keep in mind the following points.
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- You need to learn how to "attach" documents to e-mail messages sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is how you will be submitting your papers. Different e-mail programs use different methods. Read the documentation for your particular program to find out the proper method for attaching documents. If you are using a UNIX-based e-mail program like PINE, attachments can be attached only using advanced computer skills. If these are beyond you, let me know so we can work something out.
- Attachments are the most common carrier of viruses. I use advanced virus-protection software on my computer, so I am well protected and unlikely to infect your computer with my replies. But if you are not using such antiviral software, you may be spreading infections every time you send out an attachment. In recent versions of Word's General Preferences you can check "Macro virus protection." The wisest course if you own Word is to turn off its Macro feature altogether and never use it. The vast majority of viruses in circulation today are Word macro viruses.
- Because they create little extra attachments to clutter up my disk, I ask that you not include a signature with a "v-card" attachment. (Don't worry about it if you don't know what that is.)
- I can read documents created in almost any version of Microsoft Word for Mac or Windows. Other word processing programs, especially Word Perfect, may cause problems. The best solution for people using such programs is to save their papers in Rich Text Format and send those to me. Always use the suffix ".rtf" for the name of RTF documents. You can usually find this option by choosing "save as" after completing your document.
- I may also have to return your papers to you in Rich Text Format. It is crucial that you learn how to open RTF documents properly. DO NOT DOUBLE-CLICK ON THEM TO OPEN THEM. Start up your word processor, and from its "File" menu choose "Open" and open the RTF document there. You should find the document in your attachments directory or folder. The document should be converted and opened, but it may take several seconds to do so. Be patient.
- If you use Windows, you should probably conform to the old pattern of giving documents names consisting of no more than eight characters followed by three designating the program they were written in (".doc" in the case of Word). Newer versions of Windows allow longer names, but sometimes your e-mail program will truncate the titles when you create the attachment so that what you created as "humpaper3.doc" arrives at my computer called "humpape~.doc" and I can't distinguish it from one you also wrote called "humpaper2.doc." Those who have successfully sent documents with long titles elsewhere and Mac users needn't worry about these restrictions (the latter can ignore the suffixes except in the case of RTF documents).
- Always give your papers names that let me distinguish them as yours. Put your initials or at least part of your name early in the name. If I get ten papers called "voltaire.doc" or "termpaper.doc" I can't tell one from the other without opening it. Worse, in moving things around, one student's paper may entirely wipe out another's. A good name for a paper by Paul Brians about Voltaire would be "pbvolt.doc". You can look at the list of students in the Speakeasy Café to see whether anybody shares your initials.
- All modern computers can produce such characters as curled ("smart") quotation marks and apostrophes and true dashes. It's worth learning how your computer does it. Many word processors allow you to turn these features on automatically. In Word 98 this option is under "Auto Format" and "Auto Correct as You Type." You can also choose "Insert Symbol" to find out how to type special characters like this.
- If you learned to type before computers became common, you may have some left-over bad typing habits which cause problems when papers are transferred from one computer to another. It is important to learn how to use your word processor properly, not as a kind of electronic typewriter.
- A sure sign of somebody not having made a full transition to computer typing is the tendency to hit the return key at the end of lines instead of at the end of paragraphs only. This may look fine on your screen or printer, but by the time the document reaches me, it is likely to display differently. To maintain the proper wrapping of text, remember to hit the return key only at the end of paragraphs.
- At the top of the page of your word processing screen you should see a ruler on which you can set the indent for the beginning of paragraphs (usually using a little arrow that can be slid along the ruler). Do not hit the space bar a number of times to create indents. Tabs will usually work, but do not create proper indents either.
- In your bibliography, you will have to use an overhanging indent. Do not try to simulate this by inserting a carriage return at the end of the first line of the bibliographic entry followed by a tab or spaces. Instead, learn how to use the overhang indent tool in your word processor. In Word, you hold down the shift key while pulling the lower of the two indent arrows to the right.
- Note that you can change the indents, margins, and tabs from paragraph to paragraph. Use the margin and indent tools to create set-off block quotations. Do not use a combination of carriage returns and spaces or tabs. Just remember that your cursor needs to be in the paragraph to which you are trying to assign a particular margin or indent.
- To align columns of words in tables, use your word processor's table tool or tabs. Do not align columns using the space bar.
- Create more elegant tabs by learning how to set the tabs you want rather than using the automatic default ones and tabbing repeatedly across the page.
- Although in the old days people were told to make two spaces between sentences, this is considered improper with modern computer fonts. Try to get into the habit of hitting the space bar only once between sentences. You'll save yourself a lot of keystrokes in the long run and produce a better-looking product. Until this becomes second nature, you can check for absent-minded mistakes by automatically searching your document for two contiguous spaces and replacing them with one.