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What is an Average, Really?

What’s your typing speed?  Okay, you got a number in mind?  Now, how did you decide on that number?

Is it your personal best on a typing test?  Is it your TypeRacer average, which averages your last ten races?  Is it your lifetime average on 10FastFingers?

It’s interesting how we have a natural tendency to omit from our memory the slower results we achieve, because we know we can type faster, and it’s easy to chalk up those slow results to difficult passages, typos, or “not being on our game.”  We tend to remember ourselves at our best.

As you can see, there is a certain difficulty in defining the metric of how fast one types.  Without a fully standardized testing procedure, there can be quite a range of results. As speed typists, tracking this metric matters, and defining it gets even more nuanced.

I’ve tried a lot of typing tests out there, but I enjoy typing the most on 10FastFingers and TypeRacer.

10FastFingers has, in my opinion, the simplest and best typing speed test.  It uses simple words, no punctuation, almost no capitals, and displays simple lines of text that show you just enough text at once, and scroll only when you’re done with each line.  I like that it penalizes you for typos in your final speed, but doesn’t make you fix them during the test if you don’t want to.  This way, it avoids jarring stops, but is still fair in rewarding accuracy and penalizing inaccuracy.  For measuring speed, this site gives the most precision due to its consistency and repeatability.

TypeRacer is a different animal altogether.  Here, you’ve got capitals, punctuation, proper nouns, numbers, varying race lengths, and you’re not allowed to continue with the text if you have typos.  Typing here feels different than on 10FF, in no small part due to racing against other people in real-time.  The thrill of seeing your little car move in those stuttery steps alongside other little cars is something that has to be experienced.

If 10FF is running on your treadmill at home to train your speed and endurance, TypeRacer is running on a track, jumping over hurdles (that Shift key), and maneuvering through a mini obstacle course.

I like both sites for what they offer, and both have their place in a speed typist’s repertoire.  I spend most of my time on 10FF because it offers that pure typing experience, and allows me to focus on practicing technique and speed.  Then, when I want a change of pace, TypeRacer gives me a place to take what I’ve practiced into a competitive environment.

With that said, what WPM rating do I like to use?  For ease of standardization, I think it’s easiest to say your WPM is the 10FF score you can achieve the majority (let’s say 75%) of the time.  For me, that’s 150 wpm (with a PR of 166), which is up about 20 wpm since I started practicing on 10FF a couple months ago, back when I first started really thinking about the mechanics of speed typing.

So!  We’re three posts in now, and we’ve covered the fundamentals of speed typing.  The importance of accuracy, the why and how of good technique, and this post about WPM and typing test sites (which has gotten much longer than I expected).  

In upcoming posts, we’ll be getting into the fun stuff for touch typists — practical tips, advanced theory, mentality training, keyboard hardware, and more!

Exciting stuff to come.  😀

The Importance of Technique

Does proper typing form exist?  Does it matter?

Here’s what I believe: A foundation of good typing technique allows you to reach your greatest potential speed.

No matter how experienced you are with touch typing, there is room to refine your technique to allow you to type faster.  Increasing your speed will come from two things:

  1. Learning good technique, which may involve unlearning some parts of your current technique
  2. Doing what you do, faster

Just about everyone who tries to get faster puts all their effort into #2, without realizing the importance of #1.  This post will be about #1, and a future post will cover #2. If you think about it, it has to be done in this order, because we need to first establish a foundation of technique before discussing how to do that quickly.  We have to know how to run before trying to run fast.

Now, if you don’t feel familiar enough with the keyboard to touch type, your words per minute is likely around 70 or less — that’s fine!  This is a good place to be, because you likely haven’t developed major bad habits, and you can spend some time learning and practicing good fundamentals.

I recommend sites like Keybr and Ratatype, for learning good fundamentals.  (Note: I am in no way affiliated with these sites.)  This site will teach home row technique, which I highly recommend learning.  Even as a proficient typist, I found the site to be a helpful tool that showed me which areas of the keyboard I was less familiar with.

On the topic of proper typing form, don’t think of it as something you must emulate perfectly.  Instead, see it as a strong foundation that will dependably get you to a fast speed, which you will continue to build on over time with your own unique deviations.  If you’ve been a proficient typist for a while, you may have already noticed particular habits and techniques you have.

With that said, no matter how fast of a typist you are, it’s worth taking a look at your typing form.  Take some time now to type some text while watching your fingers, to see if there are things you do that slow you down because of inefficiency, discomfort, or not fully utilizing your fingers.  This might be a bit difficult to do on your own, especially if observing your fingers while typing changes how you type. You could record a video of your hands and play it back, perhaps watching it in slow motion.  You could ask a friend to watch how you type and note any outstanding observations.

Did you notice anything unexpected?  What little oddities do you do?

Here are a few broad principles I encourage for good, efficient typing:

  1. Use at least 4 to 5 fingers of each hand.  This increases efficiency by allowing you to type more letters, at a quicker pace, with less effort, because you already are covering more of the board and reducing finger travel distance in doing so.

  2. Use a thumb for the spacebar, not fingers.  The thumb naturally rests on the spacebar and is the perfect (I would say ‘only’) candidate for hitting the spacebar.

  3. Similar to the above point, use fingers to type keys that are close to that finger’s resting position on home row.  There is some flexibility in which fingers you use to type which keys, but this is a good principle to follow.  (For example, using your right index finger to type the ‘V’ key is probably not as efficient as a finger of the left hand.)

In addition to the broad principles I listed, there is also wiggle room for small habits and idiosyncrasies that deviate from the homerow typing form.  These are personal judgment calls based on comfort, efficiency, and familiarity, and I encourage carefully evaluating them to determine whether to keep them or revise them.  I offer personal typing evaluation services, free of charge!  Inquire at the contact page if interested.

As always, let me know thoughts and questions, and tell me what you find helpful.  Happy typing!

Walk Before You Run

Welcome, friends!   choobies here-  if you’d like more info on who I am, feel free to take a gander at my about page, which you can find in the top right menu.

With that aside, let’s talk typing.

We’ll start with everyone’s favorite question:  How do I type faster?

The simple answer is: by eliminating errors and typing accurately.

Typing accurately is of paramount importance in building up good speed.  If you’ve never thought about ‘practicing typing’ before, this is where we begin.

Start by going to your favorite typing exercise — I personally like 10FF.  However, instead of blitzing through the text as I know you so voraciously want to, deliberately practice typing so as to eliminate all errors.

Take a moment to let that sink in.  It seems simple, but this is the foundation of fast typing.

  1. Type as slowly as you need to be error-free.

  2. Gradually work your speed up, making sure to keep mistakes to a minimum.

Spend some time doing this-  this will take some deliberate practice, typing at a speed slower than you’re used to, and being attentive to typing with accuracy and avoiding mistakes.  Work on this daily, until you’re reliably getting accuracy in the 95% range.  Don’t just practice blindly, but practice well.

In turn, this will boost your speed, as well as increase your overall typing coherency.  Typing will be a smoother and more enjoyable experience, where you can think about what you’re reading and what you’re typing, without being interrupted by having to fix mistakes.

As a short answer to the question of “How do I type faster?”, I believe this will bring about the biggest benefit.  Work on that, let me know how it goes, and send me any questions you have!

Stay tuned, there’s lots more to come.