Writing without smarts

writing thought · note · · 498 words

I’m not (currently) a full-on writer in my eyes, but I still write a lot of blog posts, and essays in school. I’ve noticed I use writing apps that come without any “smart” features like spell check, auto correct, etc. But is it really a good thing to have?

I just write blog posts in my code editor, Visual Studio Code. It does the job, and writing Markdown anywhere else might cause issues because of which features are supported by which editors. It has no smart features, but I could install extensions that add some of them.

For everything else, if not on a school computer, I write it in Obsidian. I’ll write a note sometime praising Obsidian, but it’s basically an amazingly useful knowledge-base/note-taking writing app. I wrote my college application essay in Obsidian! Besides features like auto-closing quotes, brackets and auto-formatting lists, it only has a spell-checker, which I turned off.

I’ve used Microsoft Word on school computers for essays and stuff.

So what about smarts?

By “Smart features” I mean stuff like:

I turned all these off on MS Word. I’ll finally put the reason here for all this:

it’s annoying

I’m just annoyed by the red and blue squiggly lines while I’m trying to write. The “smart” text selection gets in the way too. And when I’m trying to write words and names that aren’t in the dictionary, it changes them.

I’m reminded of how George R. R Martin uses a 40 year old word editor on DOS to write, because he is tired of this too.

“Well, I actually like it. It does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn’t do anything else … I don’t want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lowercase letter and it becomes a capital. I don’t want a capital. If I wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. Stop fixing it!”

{% include image.html url="/note/media/writing-smarts-dos.jpg" alt=“Screenshot of WordStar 4.0 for DOS, entirely just gray text on a black screen.” caption=“WordStar 4.0 for DOS” %}

Though to be fair, I think of myself as having a pretty strong grip on proper spelling and grammar. I’m not perfect, but I’ve written all of my prior blog posts without any help :^)

And even then, I did paste my college application essay into Google Docs for the spelling/grammar checks. There were a couple…

I think, for the part of it where you’re just trying to convert your thoughts into words, disabling the software from getting in your way is ideal. We can check for the minor stuff later…

(I was gonna write more of a point, but I actually wrote everything except those last few lines the day before, and I’m tired, so I’ve decided to just wrap it up and post it.)