Does It Matter How Fast You Type?

Technological advances over the past 30 years have meant that skills that were previously rare for office workers are now commonplace. Chief among these skills is typing: a few decades ago, you could have practiced your typist craft and made a living simply by pressing keys on a typewriter. Then you might consider including your best words per minute on your resume as an indicator of your performance.

However, in 2021 it is worth asking this question: is this a necessary skillset in the new economy, or can you hunt and peck keys and you will be fine?

What is generally considered “fast”?

If we’re going to discuss the concept of fast typing, we might also consider the fastest ever, Stella Payunas and Barbara Blackburn. Pajunas set a world record in 1946 with a speed of 216 words per minute (WPM) while typing on an IBM electric typewriter. Blackburn is currently the fastest typist in English in the world at 212 words per minute recorded in 2005 on a simplified Dvorak keyboard .

In my opinion, Pajunas is an unnoticed champion in speed typing because she did it on a typewriter, which is now undoubtedly an outdated technology. If you resurrected Payunas and taught her how to program, she might just be a software developer’s dream. For the rest of us, however, you can think of an “average” typing speed of about 40 words per minute.

Are there other professions where fast typing mattered?

Many programmers in the world of technology type quite quickly due to their calling, which requires them to constantly sit and type. As corporate strategist Mario Peshev writes on his website , “Most developers I know typically measure at least 70 wpm.” This can be an important advantage, provided you have a thorough understanding of the programming language you are dealing with.

However, according to professional trainer and consultant Judith Gerberg , there are only a select few professions where fast typing is essential.

She tells Lifehacker:

Speed ​​is still important in some industries and in some positions, especially those dealing with transcription or recording, such as forensic stenographer, typists, legal transcribers, data entry specialists. However, the most important thing is accuracy and consistency.

By and large, how fast you type doesn’t really matter as long as you can keep your speed around the average threshold. If you use two fingers to type – an unorthodox trick known as “hunt and peck”, your speed is likely to be as low as 27 wpm, well below the 40 wpm average.

Gerberg notes that the skillset is not the final skillset it used to be, but it is still important, especially when it comes to getting the job done well:

In today’s world, everyone is assumed to have typing skills and a spell checker will spot any mistakes, but attention to detail is a desirable skill. Proofreading and knowledge of the basics (including proofreading a checked spelling document) are essential in the business world to avoid embarrassing mistakes.

How to improve your skills

If you spend all day at the keyboard, your speed is probably above the WPM average. If you’re curious about where you fall between the hunts and bites and Barbara Blackburn, there are WPM tests like Key Hero and Typing Test that you can try for free.

In addition, there are online programs like Typing Club that act as a kind of mentor for adults. As my colleague Megan Moravchik Walbert wrote earlier this month , this is a pretty useful tool that you can use to any degree, whether it’s total immersion or just out of curiosity:

Users can take a free “placement test” so the site can determine where you need to start. Depending on how you score on the test exam, the scores will open up many lessons for you based on your specific areas for improvement. The lessons are quick but offer repetition to help your fingers build muscle memory for each key. You will receive a report detailing your accuracy and speed for each lesson.

Either way, muscle memory and practice will ultimately help your skills the most.


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