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Yes, I know - it is important. But my question is: does it influence the speed only? Do "two finger typing" and "peek typing" eat part of writer's attention and destroy creativity?

Does the method of typing affect somehow the overall quality of text, regardless of the time spent?

What about the type of keyboard?

Can typing on touchscreen devices become a preferable kind of text input?

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    Touch typing is so easy to learn (within two hours), you shouldn't even think about it, if or if not. Just do it. After you've learned it, you will be slower in the beginning, but because you're a writer and have a lot of practice, this will change soon. – John Smithers Nov 24 '10 at 9:17
  • An extremely useful skill to learn, even if one isn't writing. It is immensely helpful when taking notes in class, because I can literally write everything that is said throughout the class. – JFW Nov 24 '10 at 13:02
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    In terms of the initial brainstorming, first draft, and major edits - depends on whether you use a computer for that sort of thing. If you write and transcribe then your fiction might be high quality, but your transcription will take a while. – justkt Nov 24 '10 at 16:51
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    I'd say it's important if you do your initial drafts on the computer, and completely irrelevant if you don't. – HedgeMage Nov 24 '10 at 19:24
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    Rumor has it that Shakespeare couldn't touch type at all. – JohnFx Jan 4 '11 at 23:50

14 Answers 14

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Yes, for a very simple reason: If you can type blind, that means you have moved all the necessary control to move words from your brain into the computer into your backbone -- where it doesn't need conscious control anymore.

This means your conscious is free to concentrate on your work instead of "Where is the letter w? Press w Where is ... o ... r ... d".

Note: You still lose 10-30% of your brain power if you have to operate a keyboard, even if you can type blind.

Simple experiment: Call a friend over and have him type. Watch how fast your ideas flow and how fast he can type. Switch. Repeat several time. You should notice how your brain suddenly slows down when you have the keyboard.

  • Certainly, adding tasks reduces the mental load available for other tasks, but as a pretty fluent touch typist (I use Dvorak, so fewer odd reaches, and type pretty much all day every day in my job as a web developer) I'd say it's down around 1-2%, a negligible amount (to me). – HedgeMage Nov 24 '10 at 19:22
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    @HedgeMage: Or so you think. Pair with someone and you'll see how much you still loose. – Aaron Digulla Nov 24 '10 at 22:25
  • I can type blind too, but I'm not a touch typist. Just... very familiar with the keyboard. So... maybe touch typing would be a speed increase. But on the other hand, it would be a bigger strain on my wrists (without a fancy keyboard). So there! – Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 10 '10 at 14:24
7

I've had people suggest you write long-hand first drafts because it makes you slow down and think about your writing. I don't know if that's a plus. I like writing long-hand because I don't always have a computer and/or it's faster to just pick up a pen and get to work. I don't like then having to type legal-pads-worth of writing into the computer. But I do touch-type.

If you're going to learn, perhaps using the non-QWERTY setting on your computer keyboard might increase your speed. There are various keyboards. I did a quick search and there are even some keyboards for hunt-and-peck people. Realize that the QWERTY keyboard wasn't designed ultimately for speed (most of us are right-handed but the major keys are in the left hand), but since most people learn to type that way, it's tough to switch.

That said, I couldn't imagine having to hunt-and-peck to actually capture a story I'm working on. I get frustrated enough with the mistakes I make as I touch-type.

As far as touchscreen technology, again if it's set up like QWERTY, I can't imagine it's going to make that much difference for speed, accuracy, or ultimate "text quality".

  • I second the Dvorak comment. – Fox Cutter Nov 25 '10 at 18:03
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    +1 for "QWERTY wasn't designed for speed". In fact, it was designed specifically to slow people down; back in the day, typewriters had a tendency to jam if you typed too fast. – Jeff Knecht Dec 4 '10 at 22:38
  • @Jeff: That's not true. It was designed to cause common letter pairs to be typed with opposite sides of the keyboard (old typewriters with the "little hammers" would jam if two adjacent hammers were airborne at the same time), which lessened the jamming rate. While it was designed around the machine rather than the human operating it, It was never ispecifically designed to slow someone down on purpose. – Billy ONeal Feb 15 '11 at 20:45
  • @Jeff: See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Billy ONeal Feb 15 '11 at 20:52
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Having taken typing back in high school, I find it amazing when I encounter people who uses computers through out the day who can't touch type. I consider being able to touch type an example of efficiency. First, if you know how to touch type, you can spend less time transcribing things you've written down on paper. Second, it should reduce the amount of frustration you have about typing and lets you concentrate on the work you're doing. If you're less frustrated about the physical act of having to type, this should let you work for longer periods of time at the keyboard.

Finally, when editing, you're looking at what you've written and making changes. You're not looking at what you need to change and then looking down at the keyboard to change it. I think that's a huge incentive to learn how to actually touch type.

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    At least you misspelled "you're" as "your" consistently. ;-P – Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 10 '10 at 15:14
  • @jae I'm always going back and fixing that. – ICodeForCoffee Dec 10 '10 at 16:27
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I'm pretty sure Shakespeare was terrible at typing.

I hope that was helpful, because it took me ten minutes to write this response.

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    Funny, but doesn't actually add substance to the discussion. – HedgeMage Nov 24 '10 at 19:23
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    I think it did imply the point that if you're bad at typing you can write things out by hand at no detriment. – Mark Eichenlaub Nov 24 '10 at 19:59
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    I think that Mark is saying that this discussion is obsessing over the point a a bit much. But the reason this site exists is to talk about writing tools, techniques, and so on. – Neil Fein Nov 26 '10 at 23:14
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    It does add substance to the discussion, in that it reminds the OP that writing is about the story, not about the mechanics of how you created it. – jalefkowit Feb 4 '11 at 16:41
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Touch typing is a good skill to have, but it's not essential for being a good writer. If you're writing a novel on the computer, chances are that after a small while, with all the practice you're getting, your typing speed will improve. It may not become lightning fast touch typing, but it won't need to be to keep up with your train of thought. Most people think in sentences anyway, and you have more than enough time to type the first sentence out before your mind can form the next one.

In short, while it's good to have, its not essential.

4

In all honesty it could only help your ability to write. Don't under estimate the ability to be able to type without thinking about 'how' to type. When you can get it down it's like the keyboard isn't even then. You can see the same thing in a car, you just decide to turn left, you don't think about how to do it.

If you want to learn there are a number of tying tutors online that can teach in both the standard US QWERTY as well as Dvorak. There's no harm in taking half an hour each day to work through the lessons to learn, or improve, your skill.

As for Dvorak, I do use it myself along with an ergonomic keyboard. I find that it makes typing for long stretches easier on my wrists. On the other hand it might be frustrating to change over if you know how to touch type on QWERTY.

2

Yes, it is influencing the speed only.

Do you know the case where the speed of doing something delicate were reflecting well on the quality of work? Touch typing will make you a faster writer, not a good one. Neither it will make you a bad one.

I know people who think of touch-typing as a useless skill. "I'm thinking slower", — they say. But the key moment is that you should think and write not at the same time.

Touch typing really helps, because I have to rewrite my text 4-5 times before the final version. On the second time I already know what this text is about, so I only do some clarifying editing. In this case I think exactly faster than I type. And the quality of final text is based on your editing work.

Check this epic thread about keyboards for choosing one.

And this post for touch-screen to keyboard comparing.

2

I would argue that typing isn't an important writing skill at all... unless it is.

I can't write by hand, because I can't write fast enough. I can't make edits on the fly. That being said, there are a great many writers who don't type at all. James Patterson, for example, writes entirely by hand on legal pads.

I've noticed I think differently when I'm typing than when I'm writing, and that typing produces better results. Quite a few others find the opposite. I learned to type at the same time I was practicing my writing, and I suspect this is why the two are so inextricably linked--each was a vehicle for the other. Basically you need to find what works for you.

That being said, typing is certainly an important skill to have, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's a writing skill.

2

No, touch typing is not important for writing.

How fast do you need to type in order to write at a reasonable pace? Most people seem to consider a thousand words in a day a reasonable rate for a professional novellist. You do not need to type at a speed of 70 wpm to write a thousand words in day. In order to type a thousand words in an hour you need a typing speed of less than 17 wpm. So much of a creative writer's time is spent thinking about what to write next rather than on data entry.

What is important is typing fluency: not having to think about putting words into the keyboard. Learning to touch type may help achieve such fluency, but spending enough hours at the keyboard will ensure it anyway, and then you'll be fine for writing.

Personally, I have never learned to touch type. Most of what I spent my time writing on the keyboard early in my career was program code, which has rather too large a proportion of proportion of punctuation for touch typing to be an efficient technique. Since I can type at 60 wpm without touch typing, it would now be too disruptive for me to learn a new keyboarding method.

2

I learnt to touch type about 6 months ago after my wife pointed out that although I was a fast typist, half of the time, I was actually hitting backspace to correct a typo. So actually I was quite a slow typist.

Now that I can touch type, I realise that my poor typing skills before were having a small impact on my creative writing. It was like I was writing in short stutters rather than a steady stream.

I'd recommend you learn. If it doesn't make any difference to your writing life, it's still a useful skill to have.

1

This is related to both touch typing and the Dvorak keyboard. This is not an attempt at an answer, but a testimony of my experiences.

This is linked to Is touch typing skill important for being a good writer?, and How important is typing speed to a successful writing career?, and Is it worth learning to touch type, and also Is it worth switching to Dvorak?

I decided to both learn Touch Typing and switch to the Dvorak keyboard layout.

Before that I used to type watching the keyboard and almost never the screen. My Qwerty and Azerty (French) keyboards typing speed was about 40 WPM at 98% accuracy. I expect this switch to greatly increase my speed and accuracy up to a professional typist level.

Dvorak:

I started to get familiar with the Dvorak layout; it does seem much more efficient. One of the biggest adventage is the placement of ‘ , . and ; - . I also un-mounted and re-arranged the keys on two of my keyboards which I think was a mistake retrospectively.

Touch Typing - Week 1 - Week 2:

The start was easy. I only had to learn a few keys. Within hours I was typing 25 WPM, but as I learned more and more keys, it dropped to 20, then 18, then 15, then 12, then 10 WPM and under.

The good thing is that i can use any keyboard,just with selecting Dvorak layout. Right now i am typing this on an Azerty (French) keyboard without looking.

Touch Typing - Week 3 – Week 4 :

I had read that around week 3 was the worst, I can confirm. At this stage writing is torturously slow and painstaking.

I feel alienated. I keep wanting to look at the keyboard, yet if I do I get terribly confused. Yet, I don’t know what to do with my head, looking at the screen doesn’t seem natural; I keep wanting to look around to force myself not to look at the keyboard.

I am also slower than ever. There seem to be a battle between my finger’s muscle memory and my brain key’s location memory. I frequently need to pause and wait a while for my brain to remember and then tell my finger which key to push for that letter.

I will try to keep this updated as I go on.

1

This is a late answer and completely against the current but, for me, touch typing is not important at all. When I'm typing, I'm not looking at the screen, I'm looking at the keyboard. When I press the keys quickly (using an average of 3 fingers from each hand), I'm almost forming the words inside my mind. Sometimes, I can even tell when I've misspelt something and backtrack.

Most importantly, though, I can write in this way as fast as my creative mind requires (which really is as fast as I need my typing to be). And that's really what matters: if you feel you can't type as fast as you need, try the method. But if you can think and type it down... forget about it. The fact that one can't type crazy fast, in my opinion, also gives the mind a bit more time to choose the right words and sentences. Which is a moot point if you're just transferring manual notes onto the computer. Speed is more important then, I suppose.

1

I used to finger pick all the time. I also use to stare at the keyboard trying to type. Now, I touch type almost as fast as the thoughts enter my mind. Sometimes, I need to stop and edit the words because I screw up; but having spent 90% of my time at a PC for the last 10 years, I have learned how to type really really well. As Some pointed out, speed isn't always the optimal solution. You just need to type as fast as you can without it feeling like you are spending too much time trying to find the right key or being hindered having to think about what you are doing on the keyboard. This just takes practice, regardless of your typing methods. For the longest time, I needed to look at the keyboard. Now, I can virtually type blind. I can close my eyes and write this sentence without issues. I can look off at a piece of paper and type what it says without issues.

You just need to practice/type well enough so that typing no longer significantly hinders you from getting your ideas out and onto the PC. Some people type at 50 wpm. There are others like me who can type at 90+ wpm (with accuracy as I am sure someone will bring in that argument). To me, I think fast, a... hyper thinker. Everything I do is done quickly whether it is tests or typing, thinking, over-thinking. That's just who I am. Others enjoy the slow roll. The ability to take and type slowly so that their ideas are able to be constructed and reflected before they may get to the point of needing them to be typed. Neither are the right answer.

Regardless if you are writing a 2 page essay or a 400 page book, if you don't have the ideas in your head, the words won't come. Obviously if there are no words, you can take 10 minutes to write one word and you will still be stuck writing.

Being a good writer comes from what is between the ears, not attached to the wrists. Everyone has their own technique. Sara stated she uses 3 fingers to type. I have never seen someone type with just 3 fingers from each hand but that doesn't mean because she does it, she is a bad writer.

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    +1 for the idea that there is no 'one' technique. I just use whatever finger is closest to the key I want, really, and even though I'm a faster typer than most of my work colleagues, I have had a couple of earfuls by someone trying to convince me how absolutely wrong it is to look at the keyboard. – SC for reinstatement of Monica Feb 2 '17 at 23:30
0

If you can touchtype and spend as assign the least amount of brainpower possible to the actual physical typing, there is undoubtedly less of a barrier for your creativity and ideas to translate across onto the screen.

Dedicating a pen to paper and writing longhand often leaves me with an uncertainty about what to write; I find myself censoring my thought processes far too much, it seems too permanent. With touchtyping I can farm out raw ideas and arrange them how I please in a short period of time.

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