Touch typing is a skill that all writers should learn to be more efficient and to put less stress on their bodies.
Why Writers Should Learn How to Touch Type
Writers type a lot; it’s the nature of the craft. While there are other options, such as writing longhand then typing after you’ve finished a draft, or dictating to your computer, most writers spend a lot of time typing. Typing is a skill, and learning to touch type can be beneficial for all writers. Here’s why.
When I started working as a freelance translator in 1996, I decided that I should learn to touch type. I realized that my income was directly related to the number of words that I was able to type, and thought that if I could type more quickly and more effortlessly, I would be able to earn more money. At the time, I found a program for Mac designed for children who needed to learn to type. I dutifully went through the exercises in this program, as if I was learning scales on a musical instrument. I printed out a small piece of paper with the keyboard layout and pasted it on my monitor, and forced myself to not look at the keyboard. It took a few months, but since then, I have been able to touch type efficiently.
If you learn to touch type, you’ll be able to type faster, and you’ll be able to get your ideas onto the virtual page more quickly and more efficiently. Since you don’t have to keep looking at the keyboard, you can focus on your writing, and get into a creative flow that’s not interrupted by looking alternately at the screen and the keyboard.
That flow idea is important. Some writers like to think and write very slowly, but others like to try to write as quickly as thoughts come to them. If you can touch type, you can write using either of these techniques: a few words at a time with pauses, or extended periods where you are easily transposing your thoughts onto your computer screen, or the sheet of paper in your typewriter, if you go the old-fashioned route.
When you touch type, you also type more accurately. Instead of looking at the keyboard and thinking where each key is, you’ll be able to concentrate on what you’re writing, focusing on the words, the punctuation, rhythms of the sentences, rather than on hitting the right keys. If you make fewer mistakes, you’ll save time on proofreading and editing, and your work will be more polished. As you learn to touch type, and make mistakes, you can benefit from your computer’s built-in spell checker and predictive text to help you out. (On Windows, this is called Text Suggestions; on macOS Sonoma or later, this is called Inline Predictive Text.) In fact, over time, you will find that combining touch typing with these predictive text features will save you even more time.
If you’re writing fiction, you’re probably not worried about how quickly you write your words. But if you are also writing work for paid publication, such as articles, you’ll find that touch typing saves you a lot of time. This time that you save will allow you to produce work more quickly and meet deadlines more easily. It will also give you more time to think about what you’re writing and produce better content. Typing faster can also be beneficial when you’re working on a tight deadline or during periods of inspiration when you don’t want to be slowed down by hunting and pecking on the keyboard.
Learning to touch type can also be good for your body. Working on computers can be stressful, and poor habits can lead you to develop repetitive strain injuries (RSI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if you’re only using a couple of fingers on each hand. Touch typing shares the work across all eight fingers, instead of just one or two on each hand. Touch typing also helps you develop a relaxed hand and wrist position, reducing strain and minimizing potential long-term damage. When you type without looking at the keyboard, you will also be able to maintain better posture, promoting better overall physical well-being. This is particularly important if you type on a laptop where the keyboard is very close to the computer’s screen. You’ll likely have less neck, shoulder, and back pain from not hunching over your keyboard, and this can allow you to think more freely about what you write.
There are many websites that can help you learn to touch type. Two examples are typing.com, which offers graded lessons starting with the basics, and Touch Typing Study, which lets you choose from a number of languages, as well various keyboard layouts. When I learned to touch type, I decided to use the Dvorak layout, which, according to many articles I had read, was more efficient than the standard QWERTY layout. Touch Typing Study lets you choose this, along with other alternate keyboard layouts such as Colemak and Workman.
You will never regret learning to touch type. This skill has many advantages, such as increased writing speed and accuracy, improved productivity, better posture, and above all, the ability to make your ideas flow seamlessly from your mind to your computer. Spending the time to learn to touch type is a great investment that can help you write better and more efficiently.