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Learn the Lost Art of Touch Typing

 by: Dick James

Computers have replaced typewriters, but two-finger, hunt-and-peck typing can never replace the touch typing of a trained professional.

A recent report by Robert Johnson in the Boston Globe highlights the decline of typing skills. Human resource managers are finding it surprisingly difficult to recruit candidates with the most basic of all office skills. According to Johnson, "the rapid-fire 100-word-per-minute applicant has virtually disappeared. Today, a mere 40 words per minute is enough to gain many administrative jobs."

Paradoxically, as computers are being used by more and more people, it has become apparent that typing is not just a skill required by typist anymore. Strong typing skills are vital when conducting a thorough web search, entering data into a spreadsheet or using any other computer program. Ubiquitous email means that merely doubling your typing speed could save hours each week! Yet many of us persist with the two-finger, hunt-and-peck typing method.

How did we end up in such a mess? When people first begin to use computers, many do not take the time to learn how to type correctly. Using keyboard may seem to be simple, when compared with learning complex business software. People do not realize that by learning how to type properly, their use of software will be more effective and their time spent on a computer will be more productive.

Attitudes in school teaching have also had an impact. Typing skills were once taught in most secondary schools. Johnson notes that these low-tech classes consisted of little more than a teacher with a wind-up clock and rows of typewriters. The textbook showed the keyboard and specified which fingers should strike various letters and numbers in order to quickly copy business documents such as invoices and memos. But most schools phased-out the typing class as the demand for broader computer instruction increased.

Of course, many people manage to get by with the two-finger, seek-and-tap method. But getting by is all it is. By learning to touch-type, you step into a new realm of computer experience. No longer do you need to fret over the physical process of keying in information, whether it is a quick response to an instant message or a 30-page report. Instead, as a touch-typist you are free to concentrate on what you are writing, while your fingers do the "thinking" about which keys to hit.

How to Learn the Lost Art.

If you are unable to open e-mail account without mistyping your password at least once or you're stuck at 20 words per minute, there are a several ways to improve. First, check out your current performance by taking a typing test. You will find a free typing test on the UK Training News website. If you can manage 90-100 words per minute then relax; otherwise read on.

Typing tutor software is a low-cost approach that can easily transform you from a hunt-and-pecker to a 100-word-a-minute touch-typist. There are dozens of typing programs available, including freeware and shareware programs. You need to look for a program which won't bore you to death with tedious drills, won't frustrate you with poor design or US spelling and which provides enough scope to let you achieve your target typing speed.

"Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" is the leading typing instruction program, and has been one of the top ten best-selling software titles for over 10 years. A far cry from the first version that came out on floppy disks and had just four colours to display, the latest version has a virtual classroom with the simple to understand icons. Mavis adjusts to the individual problem areas on the keyboard with unbelievable insight and watches for the typist's frustration factor. It will suggest a different words per minute goal, throw in a typing game for a break, or even advise "calling it a day."

While self-instructional software on typing has proliferated, some say they're no replacement for supervised classes. Besides, for many programs other than "Mavis Beacon", the entertainment value seems to outweigh their educational quality. Consider Sega's "Typing of the Dead" tutorial, for which an ad suggests, "Trade in your video game controller for a keyboard and start typing for your life." The format is to "type" zombies to death by completing words and phrases that appear over their bodies. Some employers say that typing training must be taken more seriously.

Several training companies offer short classroom based typing training in the UK. Examples are "GO Training" in Glasgow and "Training Circle" in Northampton, where you will find instructor-led courses for around 200. For longer courses leading to a professional qualification, many local colleges offer excellent value. Learndirect is a great place to look for courses, as well as the UK Training News website.

By increasing your typing speed, you really could get more done each day. Remember the mantra that training is an investment, not a cost. So put yourself on the path to blazing, machine gun-like typing by buying "Mavis" or enrolling on a touch-typing course.

About The Author

Dick James is the editor of UK Training News, a free website providing articles, resources and discussion for the UK business and industrial training community.

Article copyright UK Training News, 2004. May be reproduced on any website, provided that all links, the author by-line and this copyright notice remain unedited.


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