Is There Any Difference Between Touch Typing And Regular Typing?

The F and J keys of a QWERTY keyboard have tactile indicators, normally small raised bumps on the keycaps, to allow you to ‘feel’ your way to the home keys and by association find all other keys on the board.

‘Touch typing’ refers to a typing style that uses these tactile indicators and a learned knowledge of the keyboard layout rather than sight to find desired keys.

‘Regular typing’ on the other hand is a subjective term which covers many different self-taught typing styles but normally used to refer to a typing that uses one or two fingers on each hand and requires frequent glances at the board to locate the desired key.

A common misperception is that touch typing means a pure typing form in which all fingers are used with each assigned to a predefined selection of keys (for instance the right middle finger ONLY being used to press 8, I, K, and semicolon). 

To this end, if you can type without looking at the keyboard, regardless of how many fingers you use, there is no difference between ‘touch typing’ and ‘regular typing’. 

Stylistically there are many self taught styles of typing that fall somewhere in-between touch typing and ‘hunt and peck’. 

So why does touch typing seem to be the typing style that everyone aims for?

The main reason touch typing is considered the gold standard of typing styles is the belief that once attained it will allow you the ability to increase your WPM.

But is this assumption actually true?

Is touch typing faster than regular typing? 

You would imagine that learning to touch type would inevitably save time in the long run, especially if you spend an extensive period at your day sitting at a computer.

The time savings would be achieved because unlike regular typing you don’t need to keep glancing at the keyboard to find the key you’re targeting, thus allowing more focus to be directed on screen to catch errors early.  

Surprisingly however, research out of Finland’s Aalto University found that ‘everyday typists’, whether practiced in touch typing or not, had similar typing speeds of between 30 – 60 words per minute (52 WPM on average). 

This observation was made following a study which recorded entries from 168,000 individuals, and a combined 136 million keystrokes. So no shortage of data then!

Expert speed typists can and will achieve their fastest WPM using touch typing, but for the vast majority of computer users there seems to be little gained in trying to replace an existing technique with touch typing.

A second study by the University of Vanderbilt corroborates these findings by recording only a small difference in typing speed between those who have learned touch typing vs those who are not touch typists but have developed their own style (80 WPM vs 72 WPM).

Is it worth it to learn touch typing? 

Another conclusion of the Vanderbilt study was there is not enough evidence to suggest advantages gained by touch typing will be worth the investment it might take to learn. This statement applies to teaching both beginner typists and experienced non-standard typists. 

How can regular typing speed be improved? 

Regardless of your typing style there are a number of techniques you can use to become a better more efficient typist.

Improving technique rather than moving your fingers quicker will translate to an increase in typing speed. 

  1. Look to spot errors early: Errors are the main disrupter to fluid and fast typing. Being able to look at your screen whilst typing, even intermittently, creates the ability to pick up and correct errors faster. Challenge yourself to continually look at the screen for longer and longer periods without glancing down at your fingers. 
  2. Learn to decrease the frequency the number of times you look at the keyboard: Start by maintaining eye contact with the screen during frequently used short words of two and three letters. It will soon become natural to type those shorter words without even thinking about it. 
  3. Use the rollover technique: Rather than a staccato tap…pause…tap style of typing start to cascade letters together by using the rollover technique. This is where the second key in the sequence is in the process of being pressed before the first key is fully released. Don’t worry, overlapping keypresses or holding a key down for a fraction of a second longer won’t result in a row of unwanted characters. Try it out  now by rolling 4 fingers across ‘asdf’.
  4. Use free online typing games: Most importantly, when learning a frustrating task such as a new typing style use every means possible to try and enjoy it. Use a free online typing game such as TypeRacer will help make it fun as well as enable you to track your progress. 

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