India Uncut

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Dictaphones and spellcheck

One of the things that surprises me on cricket tours is that some journalists are so reliant on their dictaphones. I was reminded of this at the Indian team's press conference yesterday when all the Indian cricketers lined up in a bunch, and many journos were bewildered by how they would capture the quotes. "We only have one dicta each," said one of them, "and so many cricketers who will speak, all spread out. What do we do now?"

Now, as a rule, I never use a dictaphone. I prefer taking down notes, and have realised that the mind is much sharper when there is no dicta (if I may now call it that) to rely on, listening intently to every word, on the alert for nuance, remembering much more later. When people use a dicta, they switch it on and switch themselves off. Of course, you can leave both the dicta and yourself on, but whenever I've done that, even if I'm listening, I'm not listening so hard, I automatically ease up a bit. As Sambit Bal, who edits Cricinfo, once told me, "If you don't remember it, it's not worth remembering." The absence of a dicta also helps you sift out the banal, and focus on what matters.

Lest you get the wrong impression, I'm a huge fan of technology as an enabling tool, that helps us do drudge-work much faster, and aids us in areas where we could not do without it. But only to the extent that it complements and enhances what we do, and not when it causes us to switch off our mental faculties. Another example of this: I work in Microsoft Word but don't use spellcheck. This stops me from getting careless with my writing, though it does mean that when I'm in a hurry, as I often am on tour, spellos and typos creep into my copy. I think my readers are fairly understanding about it, and many often correct me -- Jai has corrected my spelling of 'wierd' 'weird' twice, in fact. That means I know how to spell that word now. If I used spellcheck, I'd never learn, even if the mistakes did not appear on my blog.

Gotta rsh now, ta.
amit varma, 1:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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