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I’m not surprised an HP executive called the paperless office a fallacy – why would the world’s largest computer printer maker say otherwise.

HP senior vice president Bruce Dahlgren says: “It is unrealistic to think that printing is just going to go away”.

Computerworld Australia reports him saying: ” the way people print and copy is changing.” Dahlgren says people are printing more documents but fewer pages. They take more care about what gets printed.

I do the same.

Since starting my paperless journalist project I’ve managed to cut the number of printed pages by more than 60 percent, but zero remains a long way off.

I rarely print incoming documents for reading. But I still need to proof-read on paper – especially when I write important or longer pieces.

There’s no question I catch more errors in my work when proof-reading paper documents. I’m not alone. Online reading is tiring and online proofing is less accurate.

I hate seeing the word aplenty in headlines.

At first I thought my reaction to seeing the word in a news headline was a matter of personal taste. Or perhaps prejudice. To me the word feels old-fashioned and pompous.

After a moment’s thought, I realised aplenty offends me because the word is an adjective masquerading as a verb.

The best, clearest writing mainly uses nouns and verbs. Only use adjectives when they make the meaning more precise.

Headlines are a concentrated form of writing crunching meaning into a handful of words.

There’s less room for adjectives in headlines than in everyday sentences. Good headlines use nouns and strong verbs.

A headline like ‘iPads aplenty’ doesn’t include a verb. The word aplenty plays a verb-like role but it doesn’t shout, sing or dance. It just sits there flaccid, weak and boring.

And it doesn’t convey much information other than to tell use there are lots of iPads.

So what? Why are there lots of iPads, where are there lots of iPads?

If you want to tell readers there are large numbers of iPads use a verb, preferably an active one:

iPads flood Auckland

If you think flood is overused try; choke, swamp or saturate, just don’t use aplenty.

The world’s stock of data grew 62 percent last year. According to The Guardian, we squirrelled away 0.8 zettabytes of data.

That’s 800,000 petabytes, where each petabyte is a million gigabytes. Somewhere along the way, we forgot about exabytes (1000 petabytes).

By the end of this year, we’ll be sitting on 1.2 Zb.

It is a lot of data.

But as previously reported, almost all the data stored around the world is junk. Experts say as much as 90 percent of stored data is useless.

We’re not talking about trash tv or bad music. We’re talking about data that is of no use to anyone; useless files, duplicate data, temporary files that became permanent.

Forget everything you hear from businesses selling virtualisation as a green technology. If the so-called green computer makers wanted to use less electricity and save the planet, they would work on tools to de-duplicate files and data and applications to help us cull rubbish from our hard drives.

This would also make it easier to find the good stuff.

Print publishers paid freelance writers by the word. They needed to fill space around lucrative ads and draw readers in with entertaining, informative copy. Before online publishing there was a market for bulk, readable copy.

Freelance writers responded to market forces. They learned to write long. Some padded their prose with waffle. Most didn’t feel pressure to write tight copy. A longer sentence bought a cup of coffee; a couple of extra paragraphs could fund a night in the pub.

Online publishing follows a different economic model. Web readers don’t hang around. As usability expert Jakob Nielsen says: “If you want many readers, focus on short and scannable content.” (Although please don’t think of a journalist’s words as ‘content’).

Online publishers want snappy copy over and over to maximise page reads and advertising clicks.

Which means freelance writers have to unlearn bad habits and get back to writing tight copy. For  us older journalists this means going back to our roots.

Those of us who learnt our trade in the 1970s grew up in a world where newspapers and magazines didn’t have acres of space to fill. And well-staffed newsrooms meant every available column inch was fought over.

typewriterWhen training journalists, I joke that Americans use more commas than British journalists because they are rich and can afford the extra ink. The same applies to Irish, Australian or New Zealand journalists.

You often find long, comma-packed sentences in American newspapers. They don’t make for easy reading.

Use plenty of full stops instead — periods if you’re American — and spare the comma.

Keeping track of who does what to whom is hard in long, comma-laden sentences. Breaking sentences into smaller units of meaning makes writing easier to follow.

Commas for understanding

Only use commas where they aid understanding.

Writers often underrate the comma’s use as an aid to sense.

Some Americans put commas between all clauses and sub-clauses. Grammar checking software tells you to do the same. Ignore the nagging. Even when these tools are not using American rules, they often dance to American usage.

British-trained writers avoid them between short clauses at the start of sentences.

Americans also use commas before and at the end of a list of items. This is sometimes called the Oxford comma. That subject opens a fresh can of worms.

In Britain the last comma only gets used when one of the sequence items includes an and.

Some experts say Americans are moving towards British patterns and commas are now less common on both sides of the Atlantic. Let’s hope so.