9(1), November 1991, pages 119-124

Book Review
Writing with the Macintosh: Using Microsoft Word.Duin, A. H. and Gorak, K. S. (1991). Cambridge, Ma.: Course Technology, Inc.

Reviewed by David M. Harralson

This book by two well-known composition scholars is a rhetoric that helps students improve their writing by teaching relevant skills for using MICROSOFT WORD (WORD) as part of the instruction in writing. Let me emphasize that the focus here is steadfastly on effective writing, and the use of WORD on the Macintosh (Mac) is a means to achieve that goal. The instruction is process oriented and emphasizes a multitude of collaborative strategies.

Duin and Gorak have written a book that is clear and easy to follow, but the exercises that appear throughout each chapter are challenging and thought provoking. Each chapter begins with objectives so clear, precise, and accurate that a reviewer constantly runs the risk of plagiarizing them while summarizing the book. At appropriate places, pictures of what the screen should look like are included to calm the apprehensive student (and the teacher who is new to WORD or the Mac).

In the same way that integrated software packages can never be as full-featured as separate stand-alone applications, this book cannot be--and makes clear that it doesn't attempt to be--a full rhetoric or WORD manual. Nevertheless, Duin and Gorak have an effective, well-thought-out text that teaches writing with the help of this popular word-processing program.

The Organization of the Book

The book comprises eleven chapters, three appendixes, and a disk of useful grids, checklists, and student papers. Files from the disk are used in every chapter of the book. The three appendixes may be an appropriate place for some teachers to begin because they introduce Macintosh basics, MICROSOFT WORD basics, and documenting sources using the MLA stylesheet. "Appendix A: Macintosh Basics" introduces Macintosh vocabulary; explains how to use the mouse; describes how to work with windows, icons, and menus; and explains how to insert and eject disks. "Appendix B: Microsoft Word Basics" introduces the vocabulary of this word-processing program and teaches some basic features essential to a composition class: starting and quitting, pull-down menus, the chooser, numbering pages, saving and printing, spell-checking, quitting, and so on. "Appendix C: Documenting Your Sources" demonstrates how to document sources whether writers are using internal documentation, footnotes, or endnotes using MLA style. It then shows how to construct, in an efficient way, a Works Cited page.

The body of the book is divided into three parts. "Part One: Beginning Your Writing" includes three chapters, all of which emphasize that composing on a computer allows the user to experiment with writing strategies and to increase his or her confidence. The authors quickly allow, however, that a writer faces new problems when composing on a computer (e.g., being able to read only a portion of the text, losing track of drafts, composing only on the screen, and overusing the features of the word-processing program). In addition, several types of collaboration are introduced and discussed.

Duin and Gorak then work through the process of generating a finished essay, indicating that this process will be examined in considerably more detail later in the book. They emphasize that writing is a recursive activity. Two kinds of brainstorming, listing and rush-writing, are practiced, followed by a number of planning heuristics. Drafting and revising complete this section. Collaborative feedback is based on Elbow's two ways of getting and giving feedback: criterion-based feedback, and reader-based feedback. By the end of chapter three, the student has drafted a whole essay and collaboratively revised it. Some of the applications practiced in this section are opening, closing, naming, and saving files; cutting, copying, and pasting text; working with the WORD ruler; and using the spell-checker.

"Part Two: Developing Your Writing" includes six chapters. Now that students are writing whole essays, the authors reexamine, in much more detail, the processes of planning, drafting, and revising. They emphasize reading an assignment closely and also provide computer-assisted strategies for exploring the full meaning of the topic.

"Chapter 4: Making Plans" concerns choosing and exploring a topic. Students are asked to take previously generated planning lists and sort them using the UTILITIES/SORT function. Extended rush-writing and journalistic questions are used to amplify a topic. When gathering information, Duin and Gorak encourage students to seek out and talk to campus experts on a specific subject before beginning library research. This approach and a number of other relevant suggestions do much to break down the barriers between professors and their students. A more extended use of audience analysis and purpose grids helps students focus their ideas more precisely.

Students are also encouraged to talk with each other about the pros and cons of collaboration as it is described in this chapter. Here, and in various other places throughout the book, the authors work especially hard to show students how to make various kinds of collaborative processes effective. So much careful attention is paid to this subject that I felt the authors were using this book to teach fellow professionals as well as students. This attention will do much to help those of us who want to keep up with, and employ the latest research on collaboration, but are constrained by years of habit.

"Chapter 5: Organizing Ideas" encourages the use of a number of strategies to ensure that the perceived thesis is the real thesis: Key words and phrases can be located and collected to make sure that they support the thesis; tree structures provide another way to ensure that the paper is adhering to its thesis; the outlining feature of WORD can also be used to develop and/or check the thesis. A series of specific questions is offered as a means to help students collaborate to discover, correct, and improve the organization of their papers. In this section as well as others, it is interesting that the authors suggest paper and pencil as well as computer strategies for organizing ideas.

"Chapter 6: Drafting Documents" describes how students can learn to draft from lists, rush-writes, grids, outlines, and tree structures with two WORD screens open at once. The authors have a down-to-earth, perceptive section here on overcoming writer's block. A major part of the chapter is spent on teaching students how to check for coherence. Ways to collaborate at the drafting stage of writing are also discussed.

"Chapter 7: Crafting Introductions, Conclusions, and Titles" covers the generation of introductions, using introduction and journalist grids. Putting purpose and audience statements at the beginning of the draft and splitting the screen using the split-bar pointer allows the students to scroll through the document, continually checking the draft against the purpose and audience statements which appear at the top of the screen. Open-ended sentences, such as, "I want my readers to remember . . ." or "I hope that readers will . . ." are used to aid revision and monitor tone. Because of the importance of introductions, conclusions, and titles, the authors suggest that students meet face to face, away from the computer, to discuss these topics.

"Chapter 8: Revising for Purpose" encourages students to rethink their purposes and theses, determine how the audience could use their writing, distinguish between major and minor points, and assess transitions. While describing the use of the feedback grid on the accompanying disk, Duin and Gorak include an important section on what students should do when they get conflicting feedback from those with whom they collaborate. They also include a list of possible feedback response questions to help sharpen collaborators' feedback. To test possible revisions, students are encouraged to enter those revisions in capital letters, without deleting the original text. Using this approach, students can see both versions at once. For critiquing drafts, the authors suggest cycling between the screen and hard copy; they offer cogent reasons for doing final revisions on hard copy.

"Chapter 9: Editing for Coherence" emphasizes constructive editing, not just the elimination of surface errors. This chapter states clearly that it will not treat errors in grammar and punctuation and that students will need to refer to a writing handbook for specific help in that area. Included on disk are a number of sample papers with which students can work. Students are encouraged to examine coherence by comparing the organization suggested in the introduction of the paper with that found in the body of the sample papers. They can also extract all subjects and verbs from sentences to check for unexpected shifts in tense or case and to ensure that the subjects and verbs are substantial (not indeterminate pronouns or passive verbs). The FIND/SEARCH command can be used to highlight possible passive verbs or favorite clichés. This chapter also explains how to use inclusive (nonsexist) language.

"Part Three: Enhancing Your Writing" helps students enhance their texts with various graphic elements. Students are encouraged to evaluate and use typography, graphics, and formatting techniques. The purpose is not to decorate a text, but to use visual elements to improve the overall effectiveness of a text for a reader. Finally, students are shown how to integrate graphics and text.

"Chapter 10: Guiding Readers Visually" guides writers by helping them learn to evaluate typography; judge layout; define the format; and apply various visual guidelines (e.g., white space, left justified text, headers and footers, headings and subheadings, lists, boxes, and icons). Space given to these topics is necessarily brief. Students are shown how to design visually consistent text using the FORMAT/DEFINE STYLES command, to insert headers or footers, and to number pages (excluding the first). "Chapter 11: Integrating Visual Elements" uses a résumé format to help students learn more about the ruler, hanging indents, and lines and boxes using the FORMAT/PARAGRAPH/BORDERS command. The discussion of the construction of a résumé is excellent. However, the discussion of visual elements is so tied to the format of a résumé, that students may not see broader applications for the important techniques taught here.


Writing with the Macintosh: Using Microsoft Word is a needed and valuable text because it demonstrates clearly--to students and their teachers--how to use WORD to assist, if not improve, composing processes. Teachers will also like the text because of its process orientation and collaborative approach. Many teachers want to do more collaborative writing in their classes, and Duin and Gorak provide examples of how this can be done in a computer-assisted classroom. Many teachers have been confused about how to deal with collaborative work, but the authors define various kinds of collaborative work and take steps to ensure that all participants take part. Duin's and Gorak's text makes assessment of collaborative work a more definable and clear-cut task for teachers and students.

Students will also like the personal example writing scenarios that begin each chapter. These scenarios show three different ways of dealing with the same writing task. The scenarios are developed and built upon throughout the entire book, allowing students to follow a project from beginning to end.

The end-of-chapter helps (called "Next Steps") are some of the most useful I have seen. "Practicing On Your Own" allows students to do just that. A collaboration exercise is always included, as is an exercise that highlights the connection between speaking and writing. "Writing in the Workplace" encourages students to take their writing instruction into the workplace to see how much writing, and what kind of writing, is done there. Finally, every chapter ends with quotations or observations that serve as springboards for discussion in an electronic journal. The quotations are relevant to the work that has been done in that chapter, and seem to me to be especially thought-provoking.

It is also comforting that Duin and Gorak recognize that not all writing activities have to be done at a computer. They emphasize that some students will not be able either to visualize or to remember more than the text on screen; those students will have to do some of their work with hard copy. Throughout the text, students are asked to find their own most effective way to deal with the writing process.

I found this book easier to work with than, for example, Edwards's (1987) Processing Words: Writing and Revising on the Microcomputer. Because Edwards's book can be used with any word-processing software, the teacher has to spend more time teaching specific word-processing programs. And, students have to write inside the front cover the proper keystrokes for various operations. After crossouts and additions, this page can become messy and illegible. Because Duin's and Gorak's book uses one of the most widely used Macintosh word-processing programs, proper keystrokes for common activities are printed inside the front cover in an easy-to-read format.

This book is necessarily more structured than, for example, a text by Peter Elbow, because the MICROSOFT WORD techniques are taught hierarchically. In addition, the lack of traditional grammar and writing exercises may be problematic to some. In a text of just more than three hundred pages, the authors cannot include as much of the traditional rhetoric as some might want.

The teacher who is concerned about how to integrate the teaching of WORD with the teaching of writing will find a good balance in Writing with the Macintosh: Using Microsoft Word. A teacher using a book such as Elder, Bowen Schwartz, and Goswami's Word Processing in a Community of Writers are, it seems to me, going to have to spend a good bit of time teaching the word-processing program they are using. Duin and Gorak assume this task, leaving the teacher free to spend more time on writing processes. Their constant emphasis is that writing is a social learning and thinking activity, not simply one of getting words onto paper.