What Is Touch Typing and Why Is It Important?

Touch typing is the practice and skill of typing using all fingers on both hands without looking at the keys on a keyboard. Most people often ‘hunt and peck’ on a keyboard with two fingers. It’s slow and tiring. Especially if you have to use a keyboard in a professional workplace or for exams at school.

The constant looking up and down from screen to keyboard can cause errors which slows down output but touch typing can change all that to free up time and effort so that you can focus on the content of the task you have to complete. You can listen and type. You can engage with other people and type at the same time. You can copy notes from the board without breaking focus. The benefits of learning are huge with increased productivity, focus and creativity.

Who invented touch typing?

Frank Edward McGurrin , a court stenographer from Salt Lake City, Utah who taught typing classes, reportedly invented home row touch typing in 1888. Home row touch typing is where the index fingers sit on the F and J keys and each finger sits alongside on neighbouring keys.

You will notice that there are two little raised bumps on the F and J keys – this is where you should rest your index fingers and are there to help touch typists always ‘go home’ with their fingers when they are not looking down at the keyboard.

In English-speaking countries, we use what is called a QWERTY keyboard layout (which spells  the first 5 letters on the top row). The home row keys for the left hand are the ASDF keys and for the right hand, the JKL; keys.

There are various theories as to why the keys were arranged in such a way on the QWERTY keyboard, from stopping the jamming of keys on a manual typewriter, to common letters being together for morse code users. A more recent theory is that the letters commonly pressed or used in succession are far apart enough to promote speed and the use of both hands, therefore distributing strain to all fingers rather than just a few.  

There have been few moves to change the QWERTY layout over the years with the existing layout being favoured by touch typists.  It’s just become so familiar.

The importance of learning to touch typing

Typing these days is an extension of our thinking and it’s very difficult to develop our thoughts without actually putting them on paper. So it goes without saying that if you can type faster, you can then develop your thoughts faster. Typing faster = create faster.

Cognitive friction plays a part here. If you have to have to keep making an effort to transfer your thoughts into text by looking down at your fingers on the keyboard, you won’t be able to produce as much in a given time. But if you can reduce that friction by learning to touch type automatically, it allows you to get your thoughts down faster.

Most hunt and peck typists, type at only 20 or 30 words per minute (WPM), whereas the average touch typist can type between 50-60wpm without making mistakes. Super fast typists can type in excess of 100wpm. 

The common mistakes that most touch typists make

Quite often, when people choose to learn how to touch type, mistakes can still happen. Take the B key for instance. A lot of people use the right index finger to type it, but it should be the left. Also with the C key. Many use their left index finger, but it should be the middle finger. When learning the shift key, many typists just use the caps lock key, which is very inefficient. Or they use the wrong side shift keys. You can’t hold the left Shift key and A at the same time for instance!

Each finger on the keyboard has a specific series of keys to type, and it’s important that they are moving in the correct way to ensure they are most productive.

A common mistake that beginner touch typists make is that their fingers tend to wander around the keyboard rather than stay on the home row keys. When touch typing, returning your fingers to what is referred to as the ‘home row position’ will assist you to type without looking at the keyboard.

Some extra benefits of learning to touch type

Research studies have shown that touch typing can really help with spelling. Because you are memorising finger patterns on the keyboard using muscle memory, you will quickly learn how to type high frequency words and so touch typing is a huge benefit for those children who may have a difficulty with words, such as dyslexia. We have certainly seen the benefits first hand, here at Type IT!

Using a laptop and touch typing provides an excellent alternative to messy or illegible handwriting and having a high speed output means that a child can keep up a good pace in the classroom. Not only that, it boosts self confidence and self esteem because touch typing is such an impressive skill to have.

Is it time to ditch two finger typing?

Most people, if they haven’t learnt how to touch type properly will be using a hunt and peck method which has evolved over time because of a lack of proper instruction. If this is you or your child, you will probably using between one and 6 fingers to type. You may use the caps lock for capital letters and even hit the spacebar with both thumbs. Most people that hunt and peck favour their more dominant hand to type, so the other hand may stay pretty still. And there may be a more dominant finger being used for several keys such as the index finger.

It’s true to say that most of the people we speak to at Type IT! say they wished they had learnt to touch type years ago. As well as being faster and more practical, touch typing also looks more professional.

To get started with touch typing, you have to unlearn the habit that you have adopted over the years, which may end up with you typing slower for a while. You then have to learn new muscle memory and finger patterns. As long as you have a good tutor to help and support you and are determined and have patience and persistence, there is no reason for you to not to be able to become a proficient touch typist at any age.

The best typing courses

Check out our range of touch typing courses to see which would suit your needs and enable you to learn how to type faster and enroll online. Alternatively, give us a call on 020 3962 2059  to have a friendly chat about how we can help you!

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