For the love of God – learn to touch-type

HlRelT0I was in a moderately-well-known-Professor-who-shall-remain-nameless’s office the other day, watching him bang out an email. Except he wasn’t banging it out, he was using his two index fingers to hunt-and-peck at the keyboard while continually lifting his head to look at the screen, and then putting it back down to peer at the keyboard. It was painful to watch. I nearly gnawed right through a knuckle.

I was fortunate. When I was 13 years old, my Mum sat me down at her electric typewriter (yes, really, I am that old), gave me a Mavis Beacon book, and told me I wasn’t allowed any dinner until I could do at least 60 words per minute with no mistakes. A week later, when I was so faint with hunger and the pain from my finger-blisters that I could barely see the page anymore, I managed it.

Of course that’s not true, but my Mum is a fantastic typist, and did teach me when I was about 13, and honestly in terms of investment/payoff ratio it’s probably the best few hours I’ve ever spent in my life. Learning to touch-type is not hard and doesn’t really take that long; like most things it’s just a matter of discipline and practice. Actually, once you start doing it properly it’s hard to imagine how you ever managed without it. If you’re reading this, then you probably spend at least a substantial part of your day sitting at a keyboard, why not spend a few hours making the entire rest of your working life easier and more efficient? And if you’re reading this thinking “Yeah, but I’ve developed my own version of semi-touch-typing which is pretty fast and efficient, actually” then you’re wrong. It’s likely nowhere near as fast and efficient as it could be.

There are lots of good online touch-typing courses available. Most of them give you feedback on speed and the number of mistakes you make while typing. TypingClub looks like a good option. The BBC has a good course aimed more at kids. This site has a free course and a number of games to improve and sharpen up your skillz.

Seriously, this is one of the best things you can possibly learn. Yes, it’s a drag, but it will literally make the rest of your life easier. DO IT.

About Matt Wall

I do brains. BRAINZZZZ.

Posted on November 27, 2014, in Internet, Study Skills and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. so true, touch typing has been the most useful physical skill acquired (after walking and talking). Apart from being the difference between staying calm while writing my MSc project against the clock, it has been such a useful example of ‘muscle memory’ in my workshops. Also, weirdly it gives me pleasure to just think and see the words appear on the screen.


    One of my most useful junior high classes ever taken. Also one of the most boring.

  3. I learned when I was doing a Masters, painfully sitting and working through a product called Accutype (it ran off of a floppy disc). A couple of years ago I re-learned as I chose to move over to using the Dvorak keyboard layout. I’m not a blisteringly fast typist, but I can hold my own, and I plan on getting my 8 year old up to speed really soon.

  4. Carlos Martin

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  5. If you want to optimize some more, you can use specially designed keyboard maps that balance the letters position depending on their frequency in the language and the probability of consecutiveness (of bigram, eg: w is often followed by h, thus it makes sens to put one on the left and the other on the right side of the keyboard so that you can very quickly type “wh” by using both hands). There are lots of such maps, for example the good old dvorak, but there is also newer ones like bépo and then some. These keyboard maps not only will speed you up, but they also reduce the effort you put on your wrists, thus it reduces the possibility of having a RSI (repetitive strain injury).

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