To insert printing characters into the text you are editing, just type them. This inserts the characters you type into the buffer at the cursor (that is, at point; see section Point). The cursor moves forward, and any text after the cursor moves forward too. If the text in the buffer is `FOOBAR', with the cursor before the `B', then if you type XX, you get `FOOXXBAR', with the cursor still before the `B'.
To delete text you have just inserted, use DEL. DEL deletes the character before the cursor (not the one that the cursor is on top of or under; that is the character after the cursor). The cursor and all characters after it move backwards. Therefore, if you type a printing character and then type DEL, they cancel out.
To end a line and start typing a new one, type RET. This inserts a newline character in the buffer. If point is in the middle of a line, RET splits the line. Typing DEL when the cursor is at the beginning of a line deletes the preceding newline, thus joining the line with the preceding line.
Emacs can split lines automatically when they become too long, if you turn on a special minor mode called Auto Fill mode. See section Filling Text, for how to use Auto Fill mode.
If you prefer to have text characters replace (overwrite) existing text rather than shove it to the right, you can enable Overwrite mode, a minor mode. See section Minor Modes.
Direct insertion works for printing characters and SPC, but other
characters act as editing commands and do not insert themselves. If you
need to insert a control character or a character whose code is above 200
octal, you must quote it by typing the character Control-q
quoted-insert) first. (This character's name is normally written
C-q for short.) There are two ways to use C-q:
A numeric argument to C-q specifies how many copies of the quoted character should be inserted (see section Numeric Arguments).
Customization information: DEL in most modes runs the command
delete-backward-char; RET runs the command
self-inserting printing characters run the command
which inserts whatever character was typed to invoke it. Some major modes
rebind DEL to other commands.