We’re in the business of making people more productive, so it’s no wonder that people find us by searching for things like “how do I speed up my typing?”. While we could spend an entire blog post talking about the benefits of TextExpander, here we want to give you some practical, useful tips that you can put into action today.
Speeding up your typing accomplishes way more than you might think. We all strive for a better balance between our work and personal lives;if you can do more, faster, then you have extra time to spend away from work projects. If people on your team aren’t waiting for you, you’re also improving the quality of their work-life balance.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s start all the way at the beginning.
Learn How to Type
This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising to see how many people don’t know how to touch type. Typing classes are rarely taught in school these days because it’s assumed that students are already proficient at using keyboards. According to MIT Technology Review, “most children start typing on cell phones and computers.” While this behavior enables kids to develop a form of typing, it’s a far cry from the touch typing education that traditional typing or keyboarding classes provide.
All that said, if you never learned to touch type, it’s probably not your fault. Our educational system is always changing. In the same way that schools no longer teach cursive writing, typing classes on an IBM Selectric typewriter are a thing of the past.
Paradoxically, the rise of technology that removed typing classes has also made typing classes more widely available. A quick search for touch typing shows thousands of results for free, online typing courses. So if you never learned to type, start there. No matter how fast your own methods might be, it’s likely that learning to touch type will give you a dramatic increase in speed.
Break Your Bad Habits
This applies to those who learned to touch type, and to those who taught themselves typing through other methods. Almost every person picks up habits we should leave behind. Some of them spawn from changing times, while others are more indicative of changing environments.
For example, do you still use two spaces after a period? Chances are, if you do, you learned to type on a typewriter. This rule came into existence in the early twentieth century, adding an extra space in the name of readability. But with computers and font kerning, the need for the extra space disappeared and now only exists as something that slows down your typing speed.
If you never learned to touch type, there’s a good chance that you have some bad habits to break too. It’s common to see self-taught typists only use two or three fingers on each hand, for example. While learning the home row and touch typing is no simple task, increasing your typing speed is a natural byproduct. The more fingers you use, the faster you can hit the keys.
And that’s before we even start talking about looking at your keyboard…
Practice for Precision
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they learn to type is aiming for speed first. This is especially common for people who learn on computers, because the backspace key makes it simple to correct a mistake.
It’s arguable that people who learned on a typewriter had an advantage. Resetting the typing head, using correction fluid or tape, and then re-typing your letters was a tedious process. So those people who learned to type on typewriters tended toward precision before working on speed.
“But I wanted to know how to speed up my typing, and you said that backspacing was simple!” While corrections using a backspace or arrow keys are simple, they still take time. Every moment that you’re not adding characters to the document is slowing down your typing speed. So even if things are easier today than they were in the past, practicing for precision is still an ideal way of making sure that your typing speed is as fast as it can be.
Oh, remember when we mentioned looking at your keyboard? As much as you might think that helps your accuracy, you’re hurting yourself. Increasing your typing speed relies on being able to spot your mistakes when they happen. If you’re moving your eyes back and forth between your keyboard and your screen, there’s a good chance that you’re going to miss a mistake when it happens.
The Ergonomics of Faster Typing
If you’ve ever tried to work with a laptop actually on your lap, you’ve learned an important lesson — ergonomics matter. The touch typing method relies on minimal hand movement. Minimal hand movement relies on you sitting in a proper position. If you’ve never practiced good ergonomics before, it’s possible that it won’t feel comfortable for you. But after a while it will not only feel more comfortable, but it will help increase your typing speed too.
We won’t take the time to dive into a whole ergonomics lesson in this blog post, but there are plenty of good resources around the Internet. This one from the folks at Das Keyboard does a great job of explaining why ergonomics can help speed up your typing.
While we’re on the subject, this is an ideal time to talk about keyboards too. You don’t have to use an ergonomic keyboard to make yourself type faster, but it might help. That’s especially true if you happen to have wrist, arm, or shoulder pain from using a traditional keyboard. But what you should look for is a quality keyboard that provides some tactile feedback. For many users, mechanical keyboards are a good choice, and they don’t have to be noisy (though we’ll admit that we’re suckers for a good clicky-clack!)
Having Fun with It
I learned to type in 1992, using an electric typewriter. I was never very good at using the number row, but I did pretty well at typing words. After graduating high school, I rarely used my typing skills again until I started playing online games sometime in the late ’90s. These games were text-based, which meant that I needed to hone my typing skills to keep up with conversations and combat. Some time later, I took an online typing test and found that I averaged 110 words per minute with 99 percent accuracy.
When did that happen??
I never practiced typing on purpose. I got better as a matter of necessity. I found that if I could speed up my typing I could have more fun in the games that I was playing, and I could get more done in the time that I had to play.
Fast forward about thirty years and I used a similar method to teach my own kids to touch type. We would play video games together where they needed to read, and then type to use commands. Though they knew where the letters were on the keyboard because they were both born into a digital generation, they didn’t have touch typing as skills until video games.
I get questions about my typing speed pretty often, and I’m quick to answer that video games were the key. There are still text-based games on the market, and typing games can be a fun way to speed up your keying skills too. Just remember to keep accuracy at the forefront, and to never sacrifice it in the name of speed.
Use Tools and Technology
We would be remiss if we didn’t spend at least some time talking about technology and how it can help you speed up your typing. Spend some time looking at what you type on a daily basis. Find the words, phrases, and paragraphs that you repeat. Now open up TextExpander and leverage the power of automation.
I haven’t typed a coworker’s full name in ages. I have saved each of them as a snippet so that I only need to type ;bm and TextExpander turns that into Brad McCarty. Likewise, I haven’t typed “Denver, Colorado” since moving here. ;dco does that for me. ;add is my home address, ;wem is my work email, ;pem is my personal email address, and so on.
If you happen to work in customer service, or some other field where you chat with people frequently, text expansion is a game changer. While touch typing and decreasing mistakes can save you some time, people are saving literal hours each month using TextExpander. Instead of typing out the same paragraphs of text, or copy-pasting them from a document time and again, you can expand them with just a few keystrokes.
This goes back to an earlier point where we talked about something as simple as your typing speed increasing your quality of life at work. Think about how much more productive you and your team could be if you could cut out the needless mouse movement and keystrokes.
What tips and tricks do you have for speeding up your typing? What’s your own story on how you got faster? If you have some unique TextExpander uses, we’d love to hear about those too. Drop a line in the comments and let us know.