Though computers help me to do a lot, sometimes I have to rely on humans. Maybe Dragon or my machine itself is acting up so that I have trouble getting work done and need a scribe, or maybe I’m ill or lost my voice and need to communicate. The following are my opinions of what makes a helpful assistant. Again, feel free to comment if you have things to add.
- The best scribes or typists take down what you dictate to them, without comment. (An exception would be a colleague or classmate who may also be working on the project with you. ) They don’t get offended if you correct their typos. And the really, really good ones laugh or just don’t care when they catch you slipping into Dragon commands out of sheer habit.
- The best readers do simply that: read aloud, with minimal inflection, exactly what you’ve written. They only read after you’ve passed them the paper or otherwise indicated a finished thought. If your writing is slow and/or painful, they may try to guess what you’re saying to save you some strength, but they will indicate they’re only guessing. They won’t assume their guess is right and base their answer on that potentially wrong guess, thereby wasting your strength on correcting them.
- Truly helpful guides will not grab your arm, throwing off your balance and restraining the only hand you can somewhat control (if they’ve grabbed your better arm, which they often do) . They will ask you if you want to take their arm.
- Even if you can’t make eye contact, considerate people will try to address you directly, perhaps with a light touch to indicate they’re speaking to you.
It saddens me that this should be common-sense stuff, but isn’t.