Tell Me A Story! Typing and Authors Past and Present




We’ve always told stories to each other, starting back in the days when those tales were spun by the fireside and passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. When those stories were written down – traced on papyrus, or chipped into stone, or scratched out by a goose-quill pen, or pressed in ink on sheets of paper – we could wander away from the fire and read stories to ourselves, or out loud to others. But from the very beginning, someone had to come up with those stories, no matter how they were recorded later. The tools that storytellers use have changed over the years, and authors today have the choice of pen or pencil, electric or manual typewriter (yes, they still exist!), computer word processor or voice recorder. Many authors find touch typing to be an essential skill, allowing them to record their words as fast as they come to mind.

One of the faster typists was the author Jack Kerouac. He used a manual typewriter, but instead of using individual sheets of paper, he threaded an entire roll of paper into the machine so that he wouldn’t have to stop the flow of words to change pages. He also didn’t go back to edit those words, which led to a comment from another author of the day, Truman Capote, who said, “That’s not writing, it’s typing.” Kerouac’s work is still popular and widely read, and one of his typewriters sold for over $20,000 at an auction in 2010.

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was the first American author to have a typewritten book published; he typed the manuscript for “Life on the Mississippi” (1882) on an early Remington model. Other authors, like Henry James, dictated to secretaries who would type for them. The imaginary author of the “archy and mehitabel” books was a cockroach who jumped onto typewriter keys one at a time. Real-life author Don Marquis used no capitals, because a cockroach wouldn’t be able to hold down the [Shift] key while pressing the letters.

While many modern authors have moved to the computer screen, Harlan Ellison and Cormac McCarthy say that they’re still using typewriters. It’s becoming harder to find typewriters, or people who know how to repair them, and soon all writers may be required to use electronic documents for their work – or go back to pencil and paper.

When there’s no barrier between creativity and creation – that is, when you don’t have to stop and think about how to type the words you want – then you’ll be writing faster. Of course, that doesn’t always mean you’ll be writing well! But the extra time you save by your touch typing skills will give you more time to go back to edit and refine your work. Whether you write for a living or not, good typing skills will help you succeed.

10 Top Typing Tips




You might think that it’s only a question of getting your fingers properly trained in order to be a fast typist, but in fact your entire body is involved in the process of touch typing. Muscles, nerves, and tendons are connected throughout your body from your toes to your fingertips to the top of your head. If there’s tension anywhere, that stress is communicated throughout the rest of the system and will affect your typing speed. In order to stay relaxed and in optimal typing shape, follow these ten ergonomic tips:

Tip #1: Elbow Position. If your arms have to work hard to support your hands and fingers on the keyboard, that increases tension in your shoulders and neck. Make sure your elbows are comfortably supported and relaxed at the side of your body.

Tip #2: Chair Height. In order for your elbows to be in the right position, your chair needs to be at the right height so that your arms aren’t in an awkward position. However, your feet need to still be touching the ground, with your upper legs parallel to the floor.

Tip #3: Wrist Support. Don’t let your wrists dangle, or use too much effort to keep them in position above the keyboard. Try a keyboard shelf to adjust the height of your hands and forearms.

Tip #4: Desktop Height. There’s only so much you can do to adjust your chair height, so look also at the height of the work surface. You need enough height to leave space for your legs, but not so much that you have to reach up for the keyboard.

Tip #5: Monitor Position. You should be looking straight ahead at your computer screen, with the image at eye level, without having to tilt your head in any direction.

Tip #6: Monitor Distance. Keep the screen between 20 and 40 inches away from your eyes. If you have problems seeing the screen, try increasing the text display size. Don’t forget to get your vision checked regularly.

Tip #7: Arm Position. If your desk and chair are at the right height, you should be able to work with your arms flat, keeping your fingers and wrists in a natural, neutral position.

Tip #8: Wrist Position. “Neutral” wrist position means that your wrists aren’t bent forward or backward. There should be a relatively flat line across the top of your forearm over the wrist and to the back of your hand.

Tip #9: Optimal Visibility. Glare on your screen is bad for your position and your eyes, and too little light is just as bad. If you find yourself leaning forwards to squint past glare or see more clearly, reposition your monitor or adjust the lighting in your workspace.

Tip #10: Workspace Arrangement. Keep your desk de-cluttered and you’ll find that it’s easier to keep your keyboard and monitor in the best position. To help with both posture and efficiency, try using a document holder placed just to the side of your screen at the same height so that you can easily move your eyes between the paper and the display.

What Are The Hardest Words To Type?




According to Martin Krzywinski, a Canadian specialist in bioinformatics (who should know about difficult-to-type words, given his last name!), these are some of the hardest words to type on a standard QWERTY keyboard:

pizazz
piazzas
pizzas
suburban
assuming
obstinance
foramens

The difficulty of these words was determined by the physical effort used to type them. Doubled letters can be hard, especially when the letter is typed with one of the little fingers, and that’s why double-z words appear on this list so frequently. Odd and awkward letter patterns, or groups of letters that are easy to confuse, make for hard-to-type words as well. In addition, unfamiliar words (like foramens) are hard to type, because the typist doesn’t have the advantage of “muscle memory” that comes from the repeated typing of more common words.

However, even words that might be typed often still can cause problems. If you look through typing-related forums or message boards, you’ll see words like existentialism, sovereignty, and dachshund (words that people find hard to spell in general, not just to type) but also words like their, which many people constantly mistype as thier, getting the two index-finger vowels out of order. If you’ve been touch typing for a while, you might have identified your own stumbling blocks: one or two words that seem to always come out wrong. Check the Typesy lesson list to see if there’s an exercise that you can use to focus on correcting those words in the future, or just spend some time practicing the words that slow you down.

Things that tend to really trip people up when they’re typing are often not related to letter order. One common error people report is accidentally missing a capitalization, or accidentally typing two capital letters in a row. These are definitely typing errors, but they’re also common enough that most word processing programs either automatically correct them, or allow you to set flags that catch and change the error as you type. We don’t recommend counting on this sort of automatic editor, but it might be a good backup.

What word(s) do you find hardest to type correctly?

The Best Free Typing Games




As the developers at Typesy know, one of the best ways to get people to work hard at something is to make them think that they’re not working at all! In other words, when you make something into a game, people are going to want to spend time on it. If you’ve ever heard the expression “time flies when you’re having fun” you’ll know what we mean. That’s why Typesy incorporates games into their software, giving users the chance to relax and have fun while still focusing on improving touch typing skills. If you’re looking for other typing games, whether for kids or adults, there are more options on the internet as well. These free typing games will help train your fingers to be quick on the keys, and you’ll think you’re hardly working even though you’re working hard.

Try Typer Shark to get a challenge with fast-paced word and individual letter typing. You’re a deep sea diver looking for treasure, but watch out for the sharks! You’ll have to type the words on the sharks to make them disappear, and the deeper you dive, the faster the sharks get. Collect points and treasure, and improve your typing skills at the same time.

Come out of the water and into the henhouse to play Chicktionary for a real time-based challenge. In this game, you need to spell as many words as you can using the letters provided in each round. The faster you type, the more words you’ll be able to enter before the time runs out. This game is great for touch typing practice as well as vocabulary improvement and spelling skills.

The BBC’s Dance Mat Typing series also features chickens, but this game is designed for the very youngest children. This set of videos takes kids through typing basics, using illustrated cartoons and games and exercises. It’s a good way to introduce children to the concept of touch typing, and helps them avoid getting into the “hunt and peck” habit as they start using the computer more.

Another great typing resource for children is the set of arcade games on the SpongeBob SquarePants theme. Although only the trial version of this set is free, kids will love typing fast to keep their car speeding along the racetrack, and the SpongeBob connection will attract their interest and attention. The familiar arcade game format will also appeal to them, and encourage them to spend time on their typing practice – though they might not realize that’s what they’re doing!

Is Your Computer Mouse Giving You RSI?




When you bought your home computer or laptop, or put in a request to upgrade your computer system at work, you probably spent a good bit of time thinking about the type of computer you wanted, and where you were going to put it. After all, you need good equipment to get good results, and having your computer in a convenient location where you’re able to sit comfortably and easily reach the rest of your work materials is also an important factor in getting those results efficiently and effectively. If you bought a PC, you might have even considered different types of keyboards, so that your hands could be in the most stress-free position for fast touch typing. However, you might not have thought much about the computer mouse you bought. After all, the mouse is off to the side, and it’s not generally used while typing, so it’s not really important, right?

Wrong.

If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you definitely spend a lot of time using a mouse, unless you’re working on a laptop and only using the touchpad. While touchpad usage can also cause problems because of cramped hand or shoulder positions, that’s a topic for another post. Today, we’re going to look at how the mouse you choose and use might affect your posture, your health, and even your typing speed.

What type of mouse should I use? Most people go with the standard “mouse”-shaped device that rolls on a trackball or uses laser tracking, where the point-and-click functions are done with the index and second fingers. If you find that your hand cramps after too much clicking, you may need to look into a different type of mouse or a different position. There are “joystick” versions of the mouse that change your hand position and use the thumb as well as the fingers for clicking, and these can relieve the strain on your hand. If you’re comfortable with your hand in the “writing” position then you might also look at a pen-shaped mouse, a new style that is getting good reviews.

Where should the mouse be located? Ideally, your mouse should be as close to the keyboard as possible, so that movement is minimized. You can buy platforms that allow you to position the mouse over the right or left side of the keyboard; generally with a PC keyboard there’s room over the numeric keypad for the platform, and you can move the platform out of the way if you’re going to be doing number input. If that’s not possible, make sure your mouse position doesn’t require you to stretch your arm forward or too far to the side. Think about using a wireless mouse to eliminate the cord and provide more flexibility in positioning.

How should I use the mouse to avoid RSI? Since RSI (repetitive strain injury) is caused by doing the same motions over and over, especially if those motions cause pressure or pain in muscles or tendons, one of the best ways to avoid it is to avoid making those motions too many times. While you’ll have to use your mouse for some computer functions, you can also accomplish many tasks with keystroke equivalents. Use the [Page Up] and [Page Down] keys instead of the mouse to move through a document, and learn command key sequences like [Ctrl]-[P] to call up your print menu, rather than clicking on the menu bar.

Test Your Top Typing Speed With Transcription




Are you focused on improving your typing skills because you want a new job, or a better job? In a previous post we talked about some of the employment opportunities you’ll find opening up for you when you’re a top typist, including legal transcriptionist and medical transcriptionist. Transcription in general involves listening to an audio tape or file, or watching a video, and typing what is being said. Most people agree that for English language speakers, the average speaking rate is around 125 words per minute. If you want to be able to type as fast as people speak, that’s the target wpm you need to aim for. Don’t worry – it’s not an impossible goal, even if it seems like it right now. By using the techniques and exercises provided in the Typesy software courses, it’s possible to triple your typing speed; since most average typists start out at around 45wpm, you can see that the goal of 125wpm is well within reach.

One way you can get practice in transcription and challenge yourself is by trying to transcribe what people are saying on the television or radio. For this exercise, you’ll want to find a show that doesn’t have several people talking at once, but rather one person talking at a time. A nature show with narration is a good place to start, or any other documentary. The people hired to narrate these shows are selected for their speaking skills, so you’ll not have a problem understanding them, and they will be speaking relatively slowly. Take your laptop to the living room and type along with the words you hear – but don’t get too caught up in the videos of the cute lion cubs or the history of space exploration while you’re typing!

The television is useful for another typing exercise in transcription if you turn on the “captioning” option. The people who are typing in the captions have to type quickly, as quickly as the words come, but there will be a delay between the spoken words and the words that appear on the screen. You can test yourself to see if you can type the captions faster than they appear, or you can turn the sound off and type the captions as you read them on the screen. Is it faster for you to type what you see, or what you hear? Practice what you’re good at to get better, and focus on where you’re slower to improve your speed.

What Words Can You Type Using Your Right Hand?




If you’re left-handed, congratulations! You join Albert Einstein, Barack Obama, and Bill Gates, among others, in a select group of approximately ten percent of the population. Note: If you aren’t already celebrating International Left-Handers Day, put August 13th on your calendar now. As a left-hander, you’re probably familiar with the down side of being in the minority, and are used to dealing with desks, scissors, cars, and everyday conveniences that, well, aren’t as convenient if you don’t have a right-handed orientation. On the other hand, you’ve got the advantage over those right-handers because your left hand will generally be stronger and more flexible, making it easier to use that hand to touch type. That will help you increase your typing speed, because many of the most common letters, including A, S, E, T, R, and D, are typed with the left hand. It will also help you with those difficult words that include a Q or an X or a Z, all of which are also typed with the left hand (and which generally are the most difficult words to type).

But even with this keyboard advantage, don’t forget that touch typing depends on both hands! To make sure that your right hand works as well as the left, try practicing your typing skills with this list of words that are typed with right side of keyboard only:

lollipop
monopoly
polyphony
jumpily
pool
holly
homonym
lumpy
million
kimono
pippin
pompom
unholy
hippo
nylon
nymph
onion
puppy
union
monopoly
minimum
opinion

Even if you prefer to have your mouse on the left side of the keyboard, there’s only one right way to touch type and reach the typing speed you want, and that’s to keep both your left and your right hand strong, flexible, and accurate on the keys.

Are You Right-Handed? Use This Exercise And You Won’t Be Left Behind




Right-handed people tend to have a weaker left hand, but a good touch typist needs to have equal strength in both hands, since both are used equally in typing. The Typesy software system focuses on making sure that both hands have equal agility, flexibility, strength through a series of exercises that focus on each hand and every finger. If you’re not using Typesy, you can still practice on your own to build your left hand strength. Try typing out this list of practice words that only use the left hand on a standard QWERTY keyboard.

stewardesses
reverberated
desegregated
beater
breeze
actress
debase
dessert
beverage
addressed
cataract
aggregate
stargazer
aftertaste
exaggerated
stared
swerved
greet
detest
crease
abracadabra
cabbages
watercress
database
afterwards

Another way to equalize the abilities of your hand is to use your left hand for things you’re accustomed to using your right hand for. Hold your toothbrush in your left hand. Use your left hand to brush your hair, or point out the window, or dial the numbers on the telephone. It will seem awkward at first, but as your mind forms stronger connections between the actions and the nerve impulses, it will be easier.

If your left hand is significantly weaker than your right, you might consider getting a small rubber ball to squeeze in your left hand to build up muscle strength. Be careful not to overdo the exercise at first, and stop exercising if you feel your hand start to cramp. Even simply tapping the fingers of your left hand in different patterns is a good way to develop agility and precision. When both your left and your right hand are working well, your typing speed will definitely increase.

The Three “L”s of Typing: Limbs, Leg Position, and Length




How you sit at your desk and where you have your arms and legs will have a big impact on how fast you can type, because when you’re sitting out of alignment or in an uncomfortable position, your speed will slow and your error rate increase. In addition, improper keyboard height and position can both lead to the development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, tendonitis, and other wrist problems. It can also cause shoulder and hand pain.

Finding the ideal keyboard position is made simpler by focusing on a position that is natural and relaxed, one that creates the letter “L” like your legs and body do when they’re in the right position. Let your arms hang down to your sides naturally so that they don’t cause your shoulders to hunch. When bent at the elbow, your arm and forearm should form the letter “L” – or, if easier to visualize, a ninety degree angle. When properly positioned, your keyboard and your elbows should both be about the same height. You should also be able to naturally curve your fingers and position them close to the keys.

Remember to use your chair’s arm rests to alleviate excess weight on your back and shoulders. If necessary, you can purchase a keyboard tray, an accessory that can be attached to your desk and adjusted.

As with your computer monitor, the placement of your keyboard on your work surface matters. You don’t want it too close to you or too far away. If you have to stretch your arms and tilt your torso forward to reach it, it’s too far. If the keyboard is too close, your arms and forearms will create more of a “V” shape than the preferred ninety degree angle or “L-shape”.

If you find you bend your wrists sideways or upwards while typing on the keyboard, you will have to make adjustments or consider purchasing one of the other styles of keyboard available.

The best advice for maintaining a more neutral wrist posture is to try adjusting your keyboard or your chair’s height. Additionally, you can try elevating either the back or the front of your keyboard. Finally, you can consider adding a wrist rest to your work surface. Some keyboards have built-in wrist rests. If yours doesn’t have this feature, don’t worry. They can be purchased inexpensively and can definitely help reduce the risk of developing RSI.

Note: If you experience musculoskeletal pain and discomfort now, or while completing the Typesy Course, you may need to seek professional help. Only someone with the proper training can accurately diagnosis the source of your pain or discomfort and recommend a treatment plan that may or may not include ergonomics.

Quick Eye Exercises to Improve Typing Speed




Your fingers get a pretty good workout from touch typing – and believe it or not, so do your eyes. Your eyes might actually work harder than your fingers as they quickly and repeatedly dart from left to right, right to left, up and down and all around as they continually refocus on monitor images. No wonder eye fatigue is such a common complaint among computer users!

To help alleviate some of this strain, remember to give your eye muscles frequent breaks. One simple way to do this is by switching your view from your monitor to something off in the distance about once each hour. All you have to do is locate an object that’s about 15 to 20 feet away. Then, once an hour, look at it for a minute or so. That’s it!

Another eye exercise you can do right at your desk to help give tired muscles a rest is eye rolling. Simply close your eyes, and while closed, move your eyes over to the right and pause for five seconds, then look over to the left and pause, then move your eyes up, pause, and look down and pause.

Then with your eyes still closed, slowly move them in a circular direction. Make the circle as big as you can with your eyes. Continue until you have completed five full circles. Then reverse direction and slowly make five more circles. Do this whenever your eyes feel tired. If your boss asks what you’re doing, tell him you’re exercising!