Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Touch Typing

So Write! is a blog about writing. Oh, all right, it’s usually about writing. Every now and then I stray from my focus and tell you the latest on the Kardashians—but not today. Today we talk about getting the words onto the page.
Today I celebrate touch typing.
If you’re of a certain age, I don’t have to explain touch typing to you; chances are good that you learned the skill in high school or college. Younger readers might have learned to type in junior high or even in one of the lower grades as formal typing instruction moved downward to accommodate the need for computer literacy.
If you don’t know what I mean by touch typing, it’s a method of typing quickly and correctly without looking at the keys. You learn to place your hands on the home row and then reach for the other keys, always returning to the home position. Touch typing is like riding a bike: it relies on muscle memory. With practice, your fingers know what to do and you can let your mind drift where it will.
Some writers like longhand. They work best when their pen or pencil makes contact with a sheet of paper. Some like writing by hand because it’s slow. I like touch typing for the opposite reason: it gives me the ability to keep up with my own thoughts, which often fly in multiple directions.
Writing is fun when the process doesn’t bog us down. I can text and even spell creatively when I can’t find the right key on my phone, but thumb-typing wouldn’t cut it for the long haul. Two-fingered typing and hunt-and-peck work for some people but handicap others, and they’re hard to unlearn. Speech recognition hasn’t taken off the way some proponents predicted, but with patience it can work. The point is that writers put down hundreds of words, thousands of words. The word count for a book can exceed 50,000 or even 100,000 words. It’s a tall order.
Typing I and II were the only business courses I took in high school, but they paid off. It wasn’t because of computers—they were not in use by the general public back then--but because of the careers I’ve chosen, most of them related and most having to do with putting words on a page. First I was a teacher; next I became a newspaper reporter. I was an editor. Now I’m a writer.
A court stenographer named Frank Edward McGurrin is credited with inventing touch typing in 1888. I’m grateful to him and to all the Business Education teachers who have taught and advocated this skill. It works for me. How do you get your words onto the page?

Shameless promotion: Soon you’ll see a new blog titled Mr. Joe’s Sweeping Thoughts. There’s a link on my website, The blogger will be my brother, Joseph Barnett, a former school custodian whose memoir is due out this spring.  Mr. Joe: Tales from a Haunted Life is a fascinating story of ghosts both literal and figurative. Joe is a talented storyteller, but typing 91,000 words isn’t his idea of a good time. I co-authored Mr. Joe by helping him get his story onto the page. You’ll be glad.


  1. Love your photo, Jane.

    I'm a touch typist. It paid off for me, as well. I was a transcriptionist and court reporter for part of my working career. And although I could type at over 120 wpm easily enough, there are times I still can't type as fast as the words come. And now that my laptop is bogging down, it can't keep up. I have to type and wait sometimes several seconds for the words to appear onscreen.

    Good thing I can touch-type!


    1. Thanks, Ginger. Yes, I know how a computer can bog down and make you wait. It's happened to me, too. Scary.

  2. Jane,

    Another delightful blog! Mrs Reinhart's classes have served me well also.


  3. Thanks, Mary, and thank you, Bea (Bee?) Rinehart, wherever you are. Sorry for all the times I goofed off in class, but I did learn to type. : )