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In light of the questions I've been asking here and the questions I've had about my writing, I thought of a good candidate to try and be more specific about. This is a small paper I had to write for one of my classes. I had the electronic version of this (and not the printed one I turned in), and re-read it and found it interesting how my guesses were so spot-on. So I was thinking of posting it to another web forum. I don't have any plans of selling this work, so I thought it would be a good candidate.

The topic and goal: The professor at the time was really interested in Bill Gates' book "The Road Ahead". It had been published roughly 4 years before this, and the goal Gates had with the book was the assignment. We were to make three predictions about what we thought would happen in the near future (5-10 years) with the computer industry and support those things with adequate reasoning.

Critique Questions: As with many of my papers, this one came back with no critiques at all. I figured out very easily that it didn't hurt my grade, so I guess it satisfied the professor. But I went over it before I posted it and found six problems from a logical or grammar standpoint and fixed them. So I can say given my awareness of things, it's as good as I know to do. Reflecting stuff I have heard in the past:

1) Are there any egregious grammar or sentence structure errors that I'm not seeing? One of those six errors was a sentence that was completely nonsensical that I somehow missed, so I figure this is good to ask.

2) Clarity: Does what is on the written page make logical sense and clearly communicate an intent in a non-confusing fashion (for example, no actor/actions confusion)? Do the sentences logically flow into one another as written? Am I being too excessive in that regard (another paper I wrote had the single phrase "more flowsy than you need" on it, so I have to ask)?

3) Are there any instances of extra or superfluous words or phrases which have no useful function?

4) Do I use words in an incorrect fashion? (i.e. "which" versus "that")

Thanks for the time that anyone might spend on this!

(originally finished 04-03-2000)

There is a very interesting future to the use of information technology in business and how business views information technology. I believe that general demands in business as well as user demands will change and shape the computer industry in the years to come.

Right now in history, the computer industry is at its point in development similar to that of automobiles in the era of Henry Ford. Before their widespread acceptance, automobiles were feared as the “horseless carriages” that thundered down the paths that horses and stagecoaches took by the people who were hesitant to accept the new technology.

The time of widespread fear of computers by the general populace that paralleled the period of the “horseless carriage” occurred in the late 1970’s into the 1980’s. As the Ford Motor Company (as founded by Henry Ford) brought the automobile into the age of increasing acceptance, Bill Gates and Microsoft has brought the computer into the age of increasing acceptance.

There will need to be more changes to computing and information technology. Furthering continued acceptance of information technology as a valuable tool in life would be a major focus of the developments in information technology. To that end, there are three foreseeable factors which should happen to reach this goal. Standards for usability of systems should increase in order to simplify the use and value of information technology. Furthermore, the development of high-bandwidth and wireless systems at an affordable price which provides for all the demands of the users will become necessary. Then as the number of automobile dealerships and repair sites have increased with their acceptance, the number of trusted and reputable computer dealers that are available will increase, along with the knowledge of the average customer for information technology.

Delivering The Right Data To The Masses Without Headaches

Simplification of the use and implementation of information technology will increase as time passes. Demands of more knowledgeable users for systems will lead to easier used and maintained systems in business. This will lead to higher standards being placed on design and delivery of not only the right data, but the right data at the right time.

Delivering the applications and hardware to deliver the right data needed at the right time will more than likely involve several technological changes. Wireless access is an infant in the life cycle of industries and innovations will continue to come from this industry to provide higher bandwidth with more reliable wireless access. Voice recognition and command will eventually be perfected to the point that people can obtain data of differing types via simply talking into a microphone versus using a mouse or typing in a keyboard.

Due to market pressure from the home user, the commercial software industry is currently moving in this direction. Software is coming out all the time that is supposed to aid or help the user in performing their task or obtaining the data they need. These demands will carry over into the business world as largely uninformed users will learn to expect more from information technology in terms of delivery of the right data at the right time.

Furthermore, there will be vast opportunities in the information technology industry to make money in delivering this ease of use and portability to users in terms of the software or in terms of training and support. There will be major switches in how information technology is perceived by business and users alike. They will learn to expect more quality, user friendliness, and reliability from their information systems.

Taking Computing Power For A Road Trip

With the increasing acceptance of information technology and especially the Internet, the desire for businesses and users to be able to have computing resources at their fingertips will increase. The nature of these changes will involve smaller hardware, as well as wireless access to different data sources such as the corporate network, satellite, or the Internet.

Information hardware will truly become mobile to the point of possibly wearing it as a wristwatch and gaining different functions such as times, global-positioning system access, and paging. In addition, what we currently know as PDAs or personal digital assistants will evolve to have better user interfaces and wireless access to a home or corporate network. Computing power will become common in automobiles as well to perform functions such as routing telephone calls, providing directions, and even programming music that is of an acceptable taste to occupants of the vehicle. Providing instructions to the hardware will be as simple as giving voice commands.

With all this mobile computer power, fast and reliable wireless access will be required to provide the information. Many wireless services are already in place for various functions such as paging and cellular telephone access. These standards will need to be further improved and augmented with other standards and would-be standards such as wireless network access and broadband access to provide for the eventual demands that users will place on the systems, such as interactive voice and video.

Sprint’s PCS or personal communication services are a candidate for such a system. It is not widely enough implemented or reliable enough to provide a stable connection but it has the potential to provide a suitable enough bandwidth for voice, data, and video. It also provides access for paging and cellular telephone access through one access number or point. This model will prove a useful basis for future developments in mobile data access.

IT Vendors On Your Street Corner

With the increasing acceptance of information technology, there will be more demand for businesses and the IT industry to provide more and better systems. This acceptance will result in an increased number of sales outlets for hardware and software IT systems, as well as an increased demand for hardware repair and installation, maintenance, and training on these systems.

Increased knowledge and awareness of the exact capabilities of these systems will enable better decision-making and foster interest in learning about them. As the systems get simpler to use, acceptance of those systems will increase in the general populace. Demand will increase eventually to the point of having a vendor of IT equipment or services literally on every street corner.

With an increase in the number of hardware systems in circulation, there will come an increase in demand for repair and maintenance of those systems when they break down. Demand for job positions in these areas will increase for people who have an understanding of the design and implementation of these systems to the point of being able to repair these systems, maybe to the point of computer repair becoming a common major in college.

Increased acceptance brings an increased desire to learn about using information technology. Therefore, this increased desire to learn will bring about an increased demand for training and instructional services, to the point that whole franchises could possibly be developed with very little start-up capital. A simple business model to provide one-on-one instruction or a classroom environment on elementary usage and function of these systems should bring a lot of new entrepreneurs into the marketplace for information technology.

Conclusion

A simplification of information technology should continue into the future to the point that computing hardware should become as easy to use as turning on a television is now. Furthermore, there will be an increased demand to be able to make these IT resources mobile, giving them the ability to access a home or corporate network, or many public services, such as temperature readings, directions, and positioning services. In addition, people will learn to accept information technology as a staple of their lives. Demand for simpler, easier to use systems will increase on businesses from employees of those businesses as well as the end-user consumer market. Information technology is headed for several interesting twists and turns in the next ten to twenty years.

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1 Answer

A few thoughts about the first two paragraphs:

There is a very interesting future [weak opening] to the use ["future to the use" is awkward] of information technology in business and how business views information technology. I believe that [superfluous] general demands in business as well as user demands [vague] will change and shape the computer industry in the years to come [cliche].

Right now in history [wordy], the computer industry is at its point in development [awkward] similar to that of automobiles in the era of Henry Ford. Before their widespread acceptance, automobiles were feared as the “horseless carriages” that thundered down the paths that horses and stagecoaches took by the people [garden path] who were hesitant to accept the new technology.

I won't offer a rewrite, but here are a few things to consider.

You can often rework a sentence that begins with "there is" so that it's more active. In the opening of an essay you'd like to engage the reader immediately; "There is a very interesting..." doesn't do it well. This is in part a "show, don't tell" issue. More than that, the first paragraph actually doesn't say very much, and it slows things down with preliminaries. I think it would be okay to skip it and start with the second paragraph, which is much more concrete.

The two paragraphs are a bit wordy. For example, "right now in history" could be replaced by "today", and "in the years to come" (aside from being a cliche) could be replaced by "in the future". Some "the"s are are superfluous: "the “horseless carriages”", "the people". Some words are repeated too close together: "that thundered down the paths that".

The writing also has vague spots. I don't know what "general demands in business" are, for example, or "user demands".

The garden path issue has to do with sentence structure. "Automobiles were feared as the “horseless carriages”... by the people who were hesitant to accept the new technology." But the subordinate clause makes it confusing: "that thundered down the paths that horses and stagecoaches took by the people..." It reads as though people are (ungrammatically) taking the horses and stagecoaches.

The second paragraph has an unexpected transition between its two sentences. We go from "industry" and "Henry Ford", suggesting a focus on manufacturing, but then we read about the experiences of the users of technology. That might be clarified or smoothed out.

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Now we're finally getting somewhere. I stare at the blank screen or page a lot of the time and often don't even know how to start. So I just start. I was always under the impression that you are supposed to give an idea of what the piece is about within the first sentence or two though. Is that wrong? Superfluous words/phrases are something I'm aware of, but how do I learn to spot them? Also, the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph was that "nonsensical" sentence - I took 5 minutes thinking before I came up with that version, and I guess it's still "confusing". Ideas? –  Glenn1234 Jan 10 '13 at 7:24
    
Is that wrong? No, it's right; there should be a balance, though: overview plus something that engages. Superfluous words When I write, I do a lot of rewriting. I think, "Is there a way I can say this more concisely?" I also pay attention to flow, at the level of the essay, the paragraph, and the sentence. Ideas? The basic strategy I follow is to write, wait, read again with a fresh eye, and then rewrite. I don't know if writers acquire a knack for what they do; I only know what I do. It's mainly a lot of practice, writing stuff for myself and editing the work of others. Good luck! –  RSASE Jan 12 '13 at 23:09
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