Why Every Debater Should Flow in a Spreadsheet | Champion Briefs
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February 23, 2022

Why Every Debater Should Flow in a Spreadsheet

By Matthew Cupich

Flowing is a fundamental debate skill which involves using pen and paper to keep track of the arguments in round. However, the efficiency and convenience of flowing on Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets outweigh the advantages of traditional methods for four reasons.

1) Flowing online is much more time efficient.

The average person will speak at 150 words per minute (wpm). Unfortunately, the average person writes at approximately 20 wpm, while the majority of people type at a speed of 40 wpm or more. Therefore, debaters can increase the amount of information they record per speech by flowing online.

Like any skill, typing speed can be improved with practice so debaters should take advantage of online typing races. Utilize recorded debates on Youtube so gain experience typing the common vocabulary and debate jargon used in debate. There is also an ample amount of resources on Youtube explaining proper hand placement and typing strategies to increase speed. After only several weeks of typing, debaters should see an increase in their typing speed to 70 or 80 wpm.

Another motivation to learn how to type is the value it can bring to life outside of debate. Whether writing an email or simply searching something on Google, typing quickly can improve productivity and save a lot of time in the long term.

2) Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets make saving your work very easy.

Record keeping on a computer is incredibly efficient and debaters can organize their flows into different files for each debate tournament or practice round they complete. Unfortunately, flows written on paper can be easily lost and take up a lot of space. In order to exchange flows with teammates or coaches, emailing them online is very useful. Using Microsoft Excel to flow avoids the risk of messy handwriting or blurry pictures.

3) Organizing and finding information is much easier on a digital medium.

Control/Command F is a lifesaver when you’re trying to find where a certain source was used or where your opponents argued something you’re about to refute. Judges always appreciate signposting, and by flowing on a spreadsheet, you’ll be able to more easily find then direct the judge to what was mentioned in previous speeches.

4) Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets make it easy to personalize your flow.

Many personalization features like the ability to bold, italicize or change the color of different texts will make it easier to keep track of certain information. It’s also possible to edit the color of text or background color, and debaters should use the “wrap text” feature to ensure that every Excel block will change size to fit the amount of text typed in the cell.

You can use these features to draw your own attention to sources, key words, arguments you know you can refute, mentions of impacts, etc.

Also, there are many abbreviations and symbols which are useful to reduce the number of words necessary to summarize arguments. Some of the most useful ones include: “+,” “=,” “-->,” “<--,” “incr,” “decr.” Of course, these recommendations are a select few from the many which can be mastered from practice.

Additionally, debaters can pre-flow their case once, and copy and paste it to new documents, therefore, saving a lot of time having to print pre-flows before tournaments or hand write them before round.

You can download a sample Excel flowing spreadsheeting by clicking here!

Check out the below video for useful commands and step by step instructions for how to organize a flow on Microsoft Excel.