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Definition: the process of using a computer to prepare written documents (letters, reports, books, etc.). The boundary between word processing and desktop publishing is not sharp, but in general, word processing is the preparation of clearly worded, readable text, and does not include elaborate design or typography. Word processing makes it easy to change or correct a document and then print it out without introducing new errors. More importantly, word processing lets you turn a rough draft into a finished report with no retyping and no wasted effort. You can start with a rough, fragmentary outline of what you want to say, then fill in the pieces in any convenient order. You don’t have to finish page 1 before writing page 2. Many writers find this very convenient; you can get a document almost finished while waiting for information that you will fill in at the last minute, and if you have to produce many similar documents (letters, for instance), each one can be a slightly altered copy of the previous one. Many word processors include spelling and grammar checkers. Take their advice with a grain of salt; they don’t understand English perfectly, and they don’t know what you are trying to say. A spelling checker simply looks up each word in a dictionary and complains if it can’t find it; it does not catch substitutions of one correctly spelled word for another, such as to for too. Grammar checkers catch some common errors, but they also complain about some combinations of words that are not ungrammatical. There is no substitute for careful reading by a human being. Almost all current word processors have all the features needed for office work and student term papers. Not all of them handle mathematical formula, chemical symbols, foreign languages, or long footnotes; if you will be typing academic or technical material, choose software that meets your specific needs. The most versatile academic word processor (but definitely not the easiest to use) is TEX, from Stanford University.
Source: Downing, Douglas, et al. Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms. 10th ed. New York, 2009. Print.