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Touch-typing

July 7, 2012

As writers, we spend a lot of time hacking away on our keyboard. Every writer has her or his own way of doing that.

Some touch-type without looking down to find the correct keys. You place eight fingers on the “home row” (asdf jkl; on an English QWERTY keyboard) and reach for the other keys from that position. Over time, the correct movements become part of muscle memory.

Touch-typing allows you to type without conscious attention and frees you to focus on writing (the ideas) instead of typing (the physical process of moving your fingers).

Most people I know—even people who spend a lot of time writing on the computer—no longer learned how to touch-type. Instead, many writers develop their own hunt-and-peck method. Some type just with two fingers and search every key by sight; others type blindly using two to six fingers but don’t place their fingers on the home keys.

The home-key method is the fastest and most efficient, though. People who use touch-typing are on average two times faster than people who use other methods. According to Wikipedia, average professional typists type 50-80 words per minute (wpm), while super-fast typists achieve 100 or more. In comparison, hunt-and-peck typists normally type 20-50 words per minute.

Touch-typing is also more accurate and produces fewer mistakes.

Personally, I use the touch-typing method. I can’t imagine writing any other way. When I was in school, I took a typing class, then promptly forgot everything I learned because I never used those skills again. But once I started writing on a computer, I rediscovered touch-typing. It’s the only way to keep up with the speed of my thoughts and let the words “flow” directly onto the page.

There are several websites that let you test your typing speed, for example TypingTest.com. Take a minute and try it. It’s fun. Let us know your test results and your typing method in the comments.

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11 comments

  1. Hi Jae!

    I type 137 wpm when I’m not thinking about something too hard (like transcription from handwritten). When I’m thinking a story out directly it drops to about 96 wpm. I use the touch-typing method learned in school in grade 9 (age 14) and perfected over years of being required to submit typed papers.


    • Wow, that’s really fast, Lara. That must come quite in handy in your jobs…both of them 🙂


      • Yeah, it’s pretty handy. I used to work in an office, transcribing audio recorded interviews for court preparation. A half hour interview took me about 90 minutes to fully transcribe and proof. At one point I was fast enough to qualify for live closed captioning; but that is a seriously tension-filled job so I gave it a miss.


  2. I totally touch-type. I was taught to type in high school, in a mandatory class. It was of great use, and after my first year in college, I switched to writing papers on the computer – first in FinalWord and then in WordPerfect. 🙂 Touch typing has served me well ever since, and we absolutely need to teach kids how to do this so they can be free to think about what they’re typing, not which letters they’re trying to hit on the keyboard.


    • I totally agree. So do I understand this correctly: touch-typing was a mandatory class in the US (or in parts of the US) in the past, but it no longer is now?


      • In my region it is still a required skillset. It is however only part of the year-long course required for all high school graduates which is taught through the business education department. First year course curriculum is touch-typing and productivity computing (MS Word, Excel). The year concludes with computer-based presentation development (PowerPoint is most common). I did the computer support for a high school for 5 years and supported their classroom computer labs (hardware repair, software rebuilding, troubleshooting, etc), hence my deep familiarity with the curriculum.


    • Oh, 81wpm. 🙂


      • That’s pretty fast. According to the website I listed in my blog post, that saves you about 5 hours each week 🙂


  3. Thanks for answering my question, Lara. When I went to school, typing (or any computer skills) weren’t part of the curriculum in Germany. I took a voluntary class that we had to pay for. And we learned to type to the rhythm of German Volksmusik (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WigbQJWH-Ls). Ugh 🙂


  4. Hey Jae,

    I’m a touch typist as well. I’m not that fast only about 60wpm. I had a typing class in high school… way back when you actually typed on a typewriter 😉 It was a required class at the time.

    Pretty much lost the skills over the years until I started writing. I don’t know how authors write who are hunt and peck typist. I got a good reminder of what that was like a few years ago when I broke my elbow. Having to look at the keys and look for the letters typing one-handed totally broke the flow of my writing. I spent more time finding the correct keys than I did what I way trying to write. Very frustrating experience.

    Seems it would be a good skill to aquire as an author. 🙂

    RJ


  5. Hello Jae, lucky I am not a writer as I am a two fingered typist and not a quick one at that!



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