How many words can you type? Ever been tested? Did you know that for measurement purposes a word is standardized to five characters or keystrokes. But, we all know that typing speed doesn't necessarily translate into writing speed. In one study of average computer users, the average rate for transcription was 33 words per minute, and only 19 words per minute for composition. In comparison, the average human being hand-writes at 31 words per minute for memorized text and 22 words per minute while copying. An average professional typist types usually in speeds of 50 to 80 wpm, while some positions can require 80 to 95 (usually the minimum required for dispatch positions and other time-sensitive typing jobs), and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120. (data provided via Wikipedia)
What's my speed? I have no clue. I'm what's called a "hunt and pecker", a two-finger typists. Surprisingly, those in that category can commonly reach sustained speeds of about 37 wpm for memorized text, and 27 wpm when copying text but in bursts may be able to reach up to 60 to 70 wpm. Technically, I don't use just two fingers (more like six), but I'm also not formally trained. Oh, I did take a half-semester typing class in high school, and if I knew then what I know now I would have paid closer attention instead of trying to shoot spitballs down Cindy Clarks cleavage. Over the years I've developed my own system, born out of necessity, which allows me to compose unhindered. Without looking at a keyboard I couldn't tell you where any of the letters reside, but instinctively I'm able to churn out the words at a good clip.
Why is that so important, especially for writers, streamlining the transition from thought to words on a screen? I'm willing to bet that most of you are like me, experiencing periods of creative inspiration where you're physically unable to type as fast as the words flowed from you. I'll be composing/typing one paragraph but thinking about events coming into focus several paragraphs ahead. I'll find myself cursing my unconfident fingers and seriously considering purchasing software like Dragon Dictation. I cope with my limitations by keeping a notebook nearby so I can jot down these idea's before they slip away, only to reappear at inopportune times like when I'm standing in the checkout line at Walmart or rinsing the shampoo out of my hair in the shower.
As far as a writers skill set goes, how would you rank your typing? Strong, weak, average? Go ahead, your allowed to brag. I consider my lack of formal training a handicap, one that I've learned to overcome. If you're a strong typist, do you take it for granted, or do you struggle with your typing like I do?
This post is 493 words long and took me an hour an ten minutes to compose. Where is Cindy Clark when I need her?