The meaning behind Wite-Out

When I was first learning how to type, I used an IBM Selectric typewriter where each strike of the finger imprinted a lasting impression on the paper.

With that typewriter, I produced many, many papers, documents, and treatises. Most of my teachers in high school and college demanded that each typed page be perfect, which included leaving spacing at the bottom of each page so you could type in the footnotes (yes, footnotes). And, as I moved into professional life in PR/communications I had to very quickly develop and type media releases, statements and speeches in response to urgent situations and crises. All on a typewriter.

Finally, when a word processor was deposited in the public relations office of the hospital I worked at in the ‘80s, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

But, there was a forgotten hero that was left behind when the word processor took over – Wite-Out, the savior of pre-computer writing.

It was a product that you could use on paper, when typing or even handwriting text, to CORRECT a mistake or errant thought that took you where you shouldn’t have gone. Today, you hit backspace or delete, and it’s golden. You can correct statements and facts, or take something back that you ALMOST said. (However on social media I am not sure users have discovered that discipline.) In the days of Wite-Out there was a big white glob of evidence that you corrected something. You took it back.

I like that.

Sometimes it was good for a person communicating important messages to gaze on all the Wite-Out evidence of the thought process, while thinking “dang, I am so glad I corrected that” or “I’m relieved that I didn’t let that get out in public!”

It was a kind of an insight-enhancing substance. And you didn’t have to ingest it.

Today, we are communicating at light speed – internal and external communications, social media, and in more channels possible than I ever would have imagined when I sat in the mandatory typing class at George High School in the ‘70s.

In business, Wite-Out served a purpose. You had to stop, think about it, and pull out that little black and white bottle. It created a pause. To think and absorb, To consciously edit, proofread or erase your own thoughts and words.

So let’s get out the virtual bottle of Wite-Out, as you communicate, write, post and comment. You can think about the intended reaction you want to get, or maybe don’t want to get. Understand who is reading it and how they are receiving the message. And then close the lid of your virtual Wite-Out bottle and hit send. 

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