What an Antique Typewriter Teaches Us About Writing Today
This is a photo of the Remington Remette typewriter I bought almost 20 years ago at Columbus’ annual ComFest. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would inspire the design and vintage vibe of my own company brand. But here we are.
After doing some digging, I discovered that this typewriter was manufactured by the Remington Rand Corporation between 1938 and 1942. The world this machine came into was very different than the one we know today. When this typewriter was in vogue in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the world was at war. And marketing and writing weren’t anything like they are today, with our constant information overload, focus on high-end visuals, and ongoing social media exchanges.
But one thing is the same: Clear messaging is the name of the game, and every word must be necessary and meaningful. And yet, in developing business communications today, a lot of people can forget this, with our ease of cranking out copy on computers (and even phones). Compared to my sleek keyboard and ultrafast word processing capabilities, this Remette typewriter takes a lot of patience to use. The keys are hard to depress. It’s noisy. And like other models of this era, there’s no number 1 key. And the tracking changes mode…well, it’s nonexistent as you’d probably guess. But the font that bursts forth is iconic, and I love the sound it makes when I push the carriage back to the left. I’m certain that decades ago this typewriter was used to string words together in a thoughtful way that really meant something to the reader.
The thing is, I need to know what I want to say before I even start typing on this typewriter, because it’s a lot of work to undo mistakes or change direction on the concept. But isn’t thinking about the message something to which we, as writers, should aspire? It’s our job to craft clean, simple messages that can be easily understood. Just cranking out thoughtless, “good enough” copy only adds to the confusion in the jumbled business ether we all breathe every day.
So with that, I’d like to take a moment and ask that all of us who strive for excellence in writing and communications spend the time to find the right words, especially when it comes to content that represents a brand. That’s why the homepage of this website says, “The Words Matter.” Because they do. They always have. And if we forget that, as marketers and writers, we’ve lost something.
P.S. Vintage typewriters appear to be piquing people’s interest this year. Check out this new documentary, “California Typewriter,” which is a fascinating take on these classic machines.