Typing as a Tool


Remington Typewriter

Typing is a tool of my trade as a writer, but almost all of us have to type at some point.  How many of us don’t use the Internet in some form or other?  Email?  Comment on someone’s blog?

In the working world, typing’s almost a way of life.  I don’t know the exact number of professions which don’t use a computer in some way, shape or form, but a lot of them do, and being able to type well and fast is of great benefit to many.

For us writers, though, typing has become a necessity.  Like many other businesses, writing is now almost entirely electronic and has been for some time.  So being able to type well is a necessity.

Most indicators I could find show typing speed is a matter of practice.  Techniques must be learned first; once you can touch-type, increasing speed is just practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  Same as any other skill for the most part, right?  Learn to do it right, then learn to do it faster.

I don’t have a bad typing speed — something like 60 wpm, give or take.  Depends on how much and what I’m typing, basically.  But lately I’ve been looking at ways to try and increase my speed, so I can do more with less time.  If I could spend less time behind the keyboard to accomplish the same amount, or better still, spend the same amount of time behind the keyboard and get more done, I’d cover more of the ground I want to cover.  Theoretically.

Like a lot of folks in my age group, I learned to type in high school on an old manual typewriter.  It required a heavy hand and wasn’t super-conducive to speed.  But it gave me a good set of habits I could work with and I’ve remembered those lessons through cognition or muscle memory ever since.

I knew people then would could crank out 70-90 wpm on old, monster electric typewriters — IBM Selectric and its ilk — and worked as executive “secretaries” (which we now call “administrative assistants”), knocking down decent money.  If they could crank out those speeds on electrics, where making a mistake meant tedious correction hurtles to jump or re-typing the whole document page, what could they do on a computer keyboard, where correction’s a matter of either the backspace button or double-clicking the errant word and re-typing it?  It boggles the mind.

When I was in Texas back in 1997, I met a guy named Jeff.  Jeff owned his own web hosting company at a time when that was just becoming popular.  He also had the foresight to appeal to a niche market.  I lost touch with Jeff around 1998, but he was a smart guy, and without a doubt the fastest typist I’d ever seen.  He could rip out command line instructions at a whopping 120 wpm.  Wow.  I don’t know how well that translated into typing English, but for getting stuff done on his servers, it was blazing fast, and left him lots of time to do other things.  Like make money.

I haven’t thought about this in a few months, but now, I have some time on my hands (which I wish I didn’t have, frankly) and can spend a bit of that on increasing my typing speed.

What about you?  What sorts of things do you want to spend time improving?  I’m not talking about self-help here, I’m talking about some practical thing you’d love to get better at.  Voice lessons to sing better?  Art classes to paint better?  Things you can do to improve on your job?  What’s on your agenda for improvement?

Sound off.

-JDT-

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8 thoughts on “Typing as a Tool

  1. I can’t believe I took typing classes in highschool. That seems like so long ago….. 🙂
    I am working out….for now 😉

    Well, keep workin’! It’s something you won’t regret. I don’t work out — haven’t for years — and I DO regret it. 😉

  2. In high school, typing was a required course. My year was the last year to use typewriters. I spent half a semester learning the ins and outs of using a typewriter properly. Setting up the paper all nice and stuff. And for what??? I’d been using computers since I was five or six years old. I knew how to type already. Why did I have to learn that archaic machine?

    Good question. I think there’s no reason for it to be REQUIRED, and if a student can demonstrate they already know how to type, why not place them in some elective that will benefit them? At five or six, I was learning how to master the Big Wheel. Things have changed a lot.

  3. Typing was required for college bound kids at my high school. Junior year – you learned to type from Sr. Deborah.

    Another requisite. Interesting. An elective for my Catholic college prep school.

    “Thousands of people have learned to type and you can too.”

    I would love to take some creative writing classes and learn CSS. And I would like to work on my yoga, maybe become an instructor.

    Try this for CSS: Learn CSS Tutorial; and good luck! (CSS isn’t hard; not at all.) And I’d love to get an advanced degree in English (not English Lit, just English). It’d be fun, if money weren’t an object. Or time. Or patience.

  4. I can type between 92 – 100 wpm depending on the keyboard… faster on ergonomic, slower on crappy laptops. The best way to learn how to type faster IS practice – I learned how to type FAST and with extreme accuracy due to being a transcriptionist in college. In essence, grad students received a stipend of hours with the college’s transcription pool to transcribe their interviews from jumbled cassette tapes into crisp, clean, formatted text. In return, transcriptionists got paid based on their WPM and how many pages you could churn out in an hour. Type faster = get paid more = more beer $.

    That’s awesome. The greatest speed increase I saw was when I worked as a word processor for Firestone back in the early 90s; same as with you, it was just practice. But WOW! Nice work to get that quick. Have you maintained it? Do you still test out that fast? I’m jealous.

    At one point I could type (perfectly formatted!) at the same rate that a person would carry on a conversation. Nowadays my superior typing speed is wasted on things such as Twitter, email, and leaving comments on blogs 😉

    Ah, but you can do MORE time wasting now. Imagine the possibilities!

    What would I like to improve, eh? I’d like to be able to design pieces of jewelry that aren’t perfectly symmetrical. I’d also like to learn how to use chalks and other color mediums in relation to making my own handmade cards. I’m a craft geek like that, I s’pose.

    I didn’t even know you made jewelry. A cool hobby. You can maybe find a short course for learning the arty stuff; but tick-tock! Baby’s coming!

  5. Knyt

    Oh my goodness you talk about dry material…If I would have printed out this post and put it in the brush out back..it would have started a fire..for a second their I thought I was 14 and in Mrs Wheeler’s typing class…but hey this is why you get paid the big bucks…Zman sends

    Ah, Zman — ya can’t please all the people all of the time, y’know? 😉

  6. Ah typing classes in High School take me back… I barely passed mine.

    And English too for that matter.

    Kind of odd I settled on writing as a hobby isn’t it?

    Al, welcome! Thanks for stopping by. In my experience, those things don’t stop a good storyteller from telling a story. He just has to be creative about HOW to tell it.

  7. Hahaha, I’m 17 but I had a chance to use a typewriter before the computer when I was a kid, when my Mom would take me with her to her office and give me something to do like a typing job. Maybe I was like 6 or 7 back then so my typing skills are pretty excellent. Now, on a computer, I could do 85-95WPM.

    Wow! Impressive! I see learning on a typewriter can have carry over benefits. 🙂

    I want to get better in Photography and in doing good at my studies LOL. I usually just slack when it comes to school. Some of my grades are probably low because I’m not trying hard enough although I want to improve myself!

    Be serious in school, or you’ll be sorry later. Like me.

  8. I left a comment on here…Where’d it go???

    Hmm … don’t see it in my spam folder. Maybe WordPress messed up?

    It was this: Is self-confidence a measureable tool? (Also, the title of this piece makes it sound like you are being a tool while typing. Typing AS a tool. Get it? Tool.)

    Oh, I’m a tool all right, no two ways about it. 😉 I don’t know if self-confidence is a tool; I think of it as a trait, I suppose. But that’s me. 🙂

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