There’s an interesting essay in today’s NY Times, “How to Speak a Book“
I find the piece interesting but I disagree with him for the mostpart about dictation and writing. He makes the valid point that when reading, and, therefore, when writing, we are aware of the “voice” of the writer — things written must “sound” right in the inner ear; and some folks subvocalize when reading. But that said, speaking and writing are for me very different things, different languages, almost. And although I listen to what I’m writing with an inner ear, I create with my fingers and not with my vocal chords. Indeed, I suspect that the sound of my voice might be quite distracting in fact.
Law and lawyers are ambivalent about this speaking/writing matter, which is why I bring it up here on Slaw. Law has a strong oral tradition and still contains a strong oral component; we speak of “hearings”; the Supreme Court still entertains oral argument; and so forth. But law is written — and how! This tension between speaking and writing is productive, I think, and there’s a vast literature on the subject that I won’t go into here, much of the best Canadian, by the way.
More of the moment is the fact that lawyers often dictate rather than typing text themselves. I often suspect that this is in part because typing is manual labour traditionally associated with people we used to call secretaries and therefore an act beneath a lawyer’s station. I wonder, too, whether the fact that, as Powers calls it, the “digital prosthesis” that connects a writer with the computer is a QUERTY keyboard acts as a barrier to lawyers’ use of computers generally, because if one learns to dictate, one has less incentive to learn to touch type. Hunting and pecking (with thumbs?) is all that can be done on a Black Berry, so it can become the “all thumbs” lawyer’s darling.
I’d be interested in how others create text. Do you use dictation? dictation software? Do your colleagues write or dictate?