Step Up Your Typing Game

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When I was in 9th grade, I got a 4-year scholarship to a private high school here in Hawaii (about a $46k value). One caveat about the scholarship was that I had to spend 1 class period a day working at the Registrar’s Office. My time there would be spent correcting tests, delivering mail and typing numbers into Microsoft Excel.

On the first day working at the Registar’s Office, the other student assistant saw me typing with my pointer fingers. He told me that I should use “home row” placement, where my fingers are on ASDF and JKL;. I was an okay typer, but when I started using home row, my typing speed plummeted. However, using home row eventually led to me to a very productive 75WPM.

Think of it this way: The Bible has 774,746 words. The average typing speed is 40WPM (based on a study of 3,746 people by Teresia Ostrach, President of Five Star Staffing). This means that it would take almost 323 hours for an average person to type The Bible. Me? It would take a little over 172 hours. Why would anyone type The Bible? I don’t know. However, you can see that if we’re comparing me to an average typer in that study, I would be technically twice as productive. That’s a lot. And unless computers are going away in our future, you can see how increasing your typing speed would be beneficial to your future.

Here are some ideas for improving your typing:

 

1. Don’t look at your keyboard.

This is actually something that I’ve had a problem with since I started using CSS and jQuery. Obscure characters like { } [ ] ( ) # – + = < > are constantly being used, but I’ve had to look at my keyboard to find them because I just didn’t know where exactly they were by memory. So, earlier this year, I forced myself to not look. I knew of the general area where the character was, but my fingers didn’t know where it was. It was very awkward at first when I stopped looking at my keyboard. I pressed a lot of wrong keys. As I practiced more and more though, my fingers developed more muscle memory.

This is how your brain feels when you're learning a new motor activity.By Hawkins. CC BY 2.0

This is how your brain feels when you’re learning a new motor activity.By Hawkins. CC BY 2.0

When we learn a new activity that requires physical input, like typing, playing a piano, or dribbling a basketball, our brain has to concentrate super hard. Physical activities require a lot of attention from our motor and samatosensory cortexes, which are important in motor learning (see the wikipedia entry). Our brain has both short-term memory and long-term memory. This applies to declarative memory (the type of memory that you can recall and describe) as well as muscle memory (a type of memory that you can’t really describe). As you continue your activity, the brain eventually consolidates your muscle memories and you’re able to spend less brain power on that particular activity, freeing up your brain power to be used on other simultaneous activity or to be used on increasing the speed of your physical input.

So why should you not look at your keyboard? Because your muscles don’t learning anything at all – you’re simply looking for something and then telling your finger to press it.

 

2. Practice with a typing test.

Typing tests are great. For one, you can measure your typing speed. For another, the tests are sometimes specialized, so you can improve on weak areas or bottlenecks.

One service I recommend for web designers and developers is typing.io. It’s a free typing test for programmers in Javascript, C++, Ruby, and more. I’m not a programmer by trade, but I do work with programming languages sometimes and I often get flustered with all the obscure symbols. I usually type at 75WPM, but I drop to about 24WPM when typing programming language. Yikes.

If you want to practice typing and killing zombies at the same time, I recommend The Typing of the Dead ( PC demo | Buy on Amazon ). It’s a typing game from the makers of the arcade game, The House of the Dead. The idea behind this game is that you have to perform your typing urgently or you get whacked by a brain-eater. That’s what you call an “incentive.” This game will not give you the best practice because you’re typing a lot of words and phrases rather than full paragraphs. Still, it’s really fun.

typing-of-the-deadb

Typing of the Dead is not the best typing test, but it sure is fun killing zombies.

 

3. Choose your keyboard carefully

The reason that proficient typers type so fast is that they have developed muscle memory that allows them to type without ever needing to look at their keyboard (wiki). Because of this, you should avoid doing work on a touch-screen keyboard or on a keyboard with shallow keys. Also, if you do a lot of accounting of number crunching, you should also make sure your keyboard has a 10-key, which is much faster than using the numbers at the top of your keyboard.

22 Comments

k Feb 4, 2017

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k Jan 17, 2017

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Ioannis k. (chushingura) Aug 30, 2013

Ron I m not an internet expert, but I studied service marketin and I am alost ready to launch it in a few days your information is very valuable to me and I strongly believe you are “real”

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Ioannis k. (chushingura) Aug 30, 2013

for some reason words disappears from text

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Ron TWG Sep 1, 2013

Thanks Loannis. This whole blog is just me trying to share useful information.

BTW, I set up some spam parameters that remove l links, so that’s why your text might have been deleted. Sorry, but it’s a necessary precaution.

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Michael Apr 30, 2013

Thanks for introducing typing.io. It has really helped me speed up my PHP typing. Keep up the good work.

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Ron Lum May 3, 2013

Michael, you’re welcome. I was very fortunate to have come across typing.io as well. It’s a bit boring compared to the typing programs I used as a kid, but it offers so much, for free too.

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