P is for Pecker




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 are positioned, but instinctually 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 flow out of 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?

8 comments

  1. In our school system, they started teaching us how to type when we were in Elementary school. I still remember all the computer games. I'm super glad they did, because it has helped me sooooo much throughout all of my schooling, and now as a writer. I can type probably around 75 wpm, but I haven't tested myself since high school. I'm guessing I might have gotten better/faster since then. The only thing I'm not fast at typing is numbers, since I still have to look at those occasionally. Typing is one of those skills I can't live without!

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  2. When I was a kid I was a finger pecker, but when I got into writing and working with a computer to type up my stories, I got better at it. My index fingers still do a lot of work, but a few others get in there. I'm very fast though. Everyone comments on how fast I type.

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  3. I'm a two fingered typist too, although over several years I've increased to four fingers - and I don't have to look at the keys either ;-)

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  4. I'm with you... Definitely handicapped by my inability to type. I used to have a PA ... She was genius...

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  5. I am a typist. At one time I could do 80-85 WPM, but probably not today. Carpal tunnel and arthritis have really slowed me down and for awhile my fibromyalgia almost put an end to my writing. But, the Fibro is all but gone and I work with the CT and arthritis, but I too have that problem of my brain racing ahead of my fingers (a real challenge for a dumb blonde). I have know people who type by the 'hunt and peck' method to actually be faster that some typists.

    OK, now I'm caught up and ready for next week. Keep up the great work only ten more posts to go.

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  6. Hi Don - I am so grateful I did learn to type .. but only because I was useless at school and went to Secretarial college - now I'm a bit of a hacker .. but at least I can still get by fairly quickly .. cheers Hilary

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  7. I have been tested in the past; that's clerical work for you! I think the last official test I took, which would have been at least ten years ago, my speed was 63 WPM. I imagine, by now it has gotten a tad faster. I often find myself breaking mid-paragraph to type out a random sentence, phrase, or even a few words because my brain is working faster than my fingers and I don't want to forget anything that might lead to even an ounce of brilliance!
    Brandy from Brandy's Bustlings

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  8. Peckers drive me nuts. Wow. That sounds so bad!!! I'm pretty fast but sometimes that creates errors

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