The objective of this experimental observation is to show how the use of a standard word processor changes the writing strategies devised by advanced users during the production of short texts. Empirical research has indicated that word processors, in fact, have a negative impact on writing strategies. Analysis of the conditions under which "man-machine" dialogue takes place, has shown that screen size and linear management both have an effect on writing. Before determining the ways in which a word processor can disrupt common writing practices, we must gain a better understanding of how a text is actually composed in real time, with or without a computer. Although the various writing processes have been clearly identified, the functional scenario describing the succession of writing phases and accompagnying activities is still poorly defined. The marks produced by writers on paper, whether linguistic (words, sentence fragments, sentences) or non-linguistic (arrows, underlining, indexation, diagrams, etc.), reflect the planning, translating, and revising processes being carried out by the writer. Sharples and Pemberton (1990) describe the exact functions of these marks in the elaboration of the ideas to be translated into text form (levels of organization). However, more knowledge about their frequency of use at the different stages of text composition is required. This is one of the goals of the present experimental observation. For the most part, such marks cannot be displayed and manipulated on the screen of a standard word processor as they can on paper. It is therefore crucial that we observe the means employed by writers to adapt their use of these necessary devices to word processing. The main results indicate that writers who use a word processor still resort to "pencil and paper" for the initial planning. The small amount of text preparation done by computer users (manifested by chronological and hierarchical organization marks) compared to writers who produce without a word processor is compensated by extensive revision on the screen. However, while writing strategies are highly dependent on production conditions, the quality of the texts produced does not vary significantly. The possibility of eliminating one of the important drawbacks of computer-assisted writing i. e. the fact that the information must be displayed linearly on the screen, is currently being studied by designers of planning aids that accompagny word processors. Before such aids can actually be developed, however, more knowledge is needed of the phases of writing and the marks used by writers throughout the production process
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