The Merits of Hand Marking in the Modern Era

When I was ten years old, adults in my life made a big deal about public schools no longer teaching cursive. “How are you going to pass your SATs without cursive?!” they’d cry, while I would cry over sheets of dotted lines and swirly words. While they were right about needing it for the SATs, I have since retained only enough cursive to spell my name for legal documents. Like many other millennials, I felt my time was wasted learning an archaic skill instead of something more contemporary and more applicable to day-to-day life. It would be another two years before I learned typing, a skill I employ daily at Ooligan.

People my age have been fed the “old way” with the expectation that we’ll need to write everything by hand, that we won’t have a calculator in our pockets every day (in the form of phone apps), and that we’ll need to memorize every phone number and address we ever encounter. Is it really that surprising that our generation is cynical about any analogue workflows when we’ve seen several outmoded in our lifetimes? Unfortunately, it is that exact disillusionment that causes some genuinely useful pre-Y2K skills to be overlooked. Case in point: hand-marked editing.

Undeniably, digital copyediting has its benefits: more room to comment, capacity to share work instantaneously, automatic spell-check. But you lose things, particularly the readability that comes with line editing in the margins of a printed copy. Jason Fried succinctly described this digital fog in his article “Copyediting: Man vs. Machine”:

For example, to suggest a capitalized “A,” you’d triple-underline the letter by hand. But on a computer you’d actually replace the lowercase “a” with an uppercase “A,” but the remnant “a” would remain. Over the course of many sentences and many changes, the machine-made track changes edits blend in too much with the original text. It becomes hard to quickly spot changes. And it becomes hard to actually read the original to the changes.

This added readability is helpful not only for the author receiving the edited manuscript back, but also for the editor’s chances of catching mistakes in the first place. How often is it that you print out an important term paper thinking it’s totally fine while it’s on the word processor of your choice, only to find you used the wrong version of “there” or typed “form” instead of “from” in a crucial sentence? If you were paying someone to catch those sorts of mistakes, you would not be happy if they missed them for the exact same reason you did.

Finally, there’s the simple fact that certain writers (and, indeed, entire presses) are, and will continue to be, Luddites. Whether they were raised in the age of typewriters and never had time to learn other ways or are rightly skeptical of the privacy afforded to modern word processors, changing their minds on the matter isn’t easy, and attempting to do so can be unprofessional. In those cases, editing by hand is really the only option, even if the idea of the author painstakingly inputting your edits and essentially writing the manuscript twice makes you cringe. Our place as good editors is to be rigid about grammar, not the form in which we deliver our edits.

Realizing You’re Part of the Problem: E-Waste

I do a lot of reading online. This shouldn’t feel like a hard-won conclusion, and yet it is something I have only started to notice recently. I work at a book press, and yet more and more, the role paper plays in my life has diminished. When I was going to Danebo Elementary School in 2005, I came to class outfitted with clean paper notebooks, folders to fill with my paper assignments, and binders to hold it all together. Today I use my laptop to take notes, which I save to Google Drive along with all my other assignments, which I turn in to my professors via D2L (Portland State University’s online learning management system), where I find my assignments, schedule, and syllabus. The books I read for work and pleasure are almost always downloaded onto my phone either as EPUB files or as audiobooks. I carry almost no paper with me and feel righteous frustration when handed a paper syllabus.

I feel virtuous for saving paper, but this issue might not actually be as cut and dry as we think. According to Alison Moodie’s 2014 article for The Guardian, “Is Digital Really Greener than Paper?”, it’s more complicated than that: “More than 65 percent of paper in the US was recycled in 2012, making paper the nation’s most recyclable commodity. Over the past century, forest coverage in the northern part of the country, from Minnesota to Maine, has actually increased by 28 percent.” Turns out a big reason your bank has been pushing you to “Go Green, Go Paperless” is to reduce costs. This article claims there just weren’t any studies comparing the sustainability of digital and paper media. But while paper’s relative sustainability may surprise you, wait until you hear about e-waste.

Digital media certainly seems sustainable. It’s “reusable” and makes other materials obsolete (I haven’t had an alarm clock, a flashlight, or a calendar that wasn’t part of my phone in six years). Yet more and more, smartphones and other electronic devices are treated like disposable objects. The average American keeps their cell phone for only eighteen months before discarding it. Cultural and manufacturer practices support this. Companies end maintenance to operating systems that support older devices. Overseas factories make the cost of production relatively inexpensive, and lack of know-how makes repairs to older or even gently used devices expensive and inconvenient. My last phone died when I spilled water on it—once. I went to my service provider, and they immediately started the process to get me a new one. The only place they could send it for repairs was back to the manufacturer, but a refurbished phone is considered a piece of junk in a culture where the newest device is a status symbol.

This has a cost. Despite US regulations about proper e-waste recycling, 60 percent of e-waste ends up in landfills. These leach toxic materials into the environment. Of the materials that are recycled, 30 percent are still unusable and end up getting thrown away.

Since I grew up during a time when the internet, social media, and personal devices were becoming a part of everyday life, the materiality of these things has been invisible to me. I only recently thought to wonder if the internet was the result of more than just magic (spoiler: it is). It took my sixth phone and second laptop for me to see my personal devices as material objects and to wonder where they went when I was done with them.

This is a much more complicated issue than what I have presented here, and I encourage you to do your own research. On an economic and cultural scale, we need to change how we interact with electronics before we can label them sustainable. Read more about those here. On a personal and local level, there are things you can do! Do your research about where to recycle old devices locally. Green Century Recycling is a good option in Portland. When your device breaks or sustains minor damage, try taking it to your local electronics repair shop. Or maybe try to find user-made repair guides and challenge yourself with some DIY projects.

Right now iFixit is teaming up with the Repair Association to lobby for right-to-repair laws in the state of Oregon. Learn more about it here. Add your name and start fighting e-waste.

The Five Stages of Writing a Research Paper

Everyone has been there. The end of the term is fast approaching and all of those papers and final projects you had noted on the syllabus as being months away are quickly becoming a reality. Those problems that future you was going to deal with are now all yours. But no need to panic—you’ve got this. A few thousands words on an esoteric topic can’t keep you down. Below are the five stages of writing a research paper as a graduate student at Ooligan and how to deal with them.

Stage One: Denial

How could it possibly already be week eight of the term? Why, it was just yesterday you were a doe-eyed youth looking over the syllabus and thinking about all the time you had to choose a well thought-out topic and get your research done early. That may not have happened, but prepared or not, the time to dig in and do some work has begun.

Stage Two: Anger

This stage is marked by intense feelings of rage tinged with just a hint of spite. You may find yourself asking, “Why is it that every single class requires a research paper?” That’s a great question, and one I don’t have the answer to. But the fact is that you came to school to learn and better yourself and expanding your knowledge base is a part of that. If you find that anger overwhelms you, just remember that it’s all for your own good.

Stage Three: Bargaining

When writing a paper, bargaining can take on many forms. It could be bargaining with your professor for more time, or bargaining with yourself for treats. Surely if you find two sources, you deserve a brief, yet intense cookie break, don’t you? Whatever deals you make, just be sure that there is an equal work-to-reward ratio.

Stage Four: Depression

You’ve fallen into a deep depression after writing your introduction and subsequently binging on not one, but two boxes of Oreos. You begin to ask yourself what the point of it all is, and why you’re even in grad school in the first place. You had a good thing going at the coffee shop. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years you could have made night manager, and then from there it would have been just a simple forty years before retirement and then just a few more years until the sweet release of death. Snap out of it! Put those barista skills to use and make yourself a cup of coffee, because you’ve got a paper to write and a long night ahead of you.

Stage Five: Acceptance

Congratulations, you’ve managed to complete yet another paper that you can use for your final portfolio. It’s been a wild journey of self doubt and procrastination, but it was all worth it to get that sweet sweet email confirmation in D2L. Hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about yourself in the process and that you can apply to future endeavors. At the very least, you’ve given yourself much needed experience before you tackle your thesis and the cycle starts all over again.

Exploring Environmentally Friendly Paper

In 2008, J. K. Rowling refused to allow a Finnish publisher, Tammi, to print Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because the paper they used was not Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Although Tammi printed the Harry Potter series on recycled paper, Rowling wanted even more environmentally friendly paper at that time.

On the other hand, Scholastic, a US publisher, announced that they had purchased almost twenty-two million pounds of FSC-certified paper for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and would use at least 30 percent recycled fiber that satisfied FSC’s criteria. By printing every 784-page copy of the book this way, Scholastic raised awareness and showed the public their responsibility for the environment.

Raincoast Books, the publisher that published the Canadian edition of Harry Potter, adopted ancient-forest friendly paper at an early stage. According to the Raincoast Book’s website, the paper is not made of trees in ancient forests untrodden by humans. This is because when a forest is destroyed, it loses its ability to stabilize the ecosystem, and therefore contributes to environmental problems such as global warming.

In 2001, Nicole Rycroft, the campaign director for Markets Initiative, visited Raincoast Books and persuaded the company to use ancient-forest friendly paper. At that time, very few publishers agreed with Markets Initiative’s proposal; nevertheless, Raincoast Books decided to take responsibility for the environment and started adopting the paper. Now, 95 percent of its text-based books are printed on ancient-forest friendly paper.

Raincoast Books printed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on paper that was 100 percent post-consumer recycled and processed without chlorine and saved 28,221 trees. The company then won the Ethics in Action Award for Environmental Excellence. Rowling also appreciated their efforts and sent the following praise:
“The forest at Hogwarts is home to magical creatures like unicorns and centaurs. Because the Canadian editions are printed on Ancient-Forest Friendly paper, the Harry Potter books are helping to save magnificent forests in the Muggle world, forests that are home of magical animals such as Orangutans, Wolves and Bears. It’s a good idea to respect ancient trees, especially if they have a temper like the Whomping Willow.” The spokesman for Raincoast Books expected that by educating the public, producers could increase innovation and reduce the cost of the paper.

Raincoast Books’ contribution to the environment might have made Rowling aware of environmentally friendly paper and led her to make the statement about FSC-certified paper. And since the Harry Potter series is read by millions of readers all over the world, and Rowling’s influence is equally huge, the publisher’s accomplishment affected the entire industry. In this sense, Raincoast Books is a pioneer publisher.

Mike McMahon, the head of book paper sales at Midland Paper in New York City, states that recycled pulp, also known as fiber, costs more than virgin pulp due to the processes it has to undergo. Nevertheless, Raincoast Books continues protecting forests, encouraged by its success and the support of consumers. Raincoast Books is also lucky because it had the right to publish the popular Harry Potter books, which provided the company with an opportunity for marketing and publicity. For many minor publishers, using expensive recycled paper is still a difficult hurdle to clear. McMahon argues that instead, “Proper forest management is the real issue.” Thus, to make environmentally friendly paper available for any publisher, the industry needs to pay attention to various perspectives. Developing cost-effective methods of recycling paper is critical. It might be time to put the idea of not using virgin pulp aside and instead explore ways to care for forests without damaging ecosystems.