'Touch-typing' means being able to type without looking at the keys because you've memorised where they are.
If you can't touch-type, you really should learn. Touch-typists are more efficient at writing, self-editing, editing, communicating online or doing anything that involves using software. In today's world, you basically need to be able to touch-type to be good at your job and/or your life.
Nowadays, most 10 and 11-year-olds who have grown up online have taught themselves to touch-type. Online kids get used to typing your passwords and other information into programs; they need to type fast to keep up with the others in chat rooms around video games or in social media channels; and the only way to do that is by watching the screen - not the keys - as they type. So kids who spend a lot of time on computers naturally improve their typing speed as they go.
If you haven't learnt how to touch-type as a child and would like to learn how to do it, take a look at the many online courses (both free and charged) on offer. Here's a start: Top Ten Reviews - touch-typing
If you can touch-type, you have the potential to become a very fast typist, if you want. Here is how.
All you need to do to increase your touch-typing speed is practice and commitment.
If you don't work alone - e.g. you work in an office with co-workers - ask if anyone else would like to join you in improving their typing speed. Set weekly goals and see if you can meet them. Set short tests and race against each other - but make sure you set an accuracy requirement (e.g. 95% accuracy) in those races. You can use this method of racing against others to improve your typing speed with either audio transcription or copy typing tasks.
Many years ago, I transformed my speed from 60 words per minute to 100 words per minute. I worked with half a dozen other typists on the Hansard team (at Parliament House, Darwin). We raced against each other in five-minute audio grabs. There were lots of laughs and it was lots of fun but best of all, it was great for improving our typing speed and productivity and it made the work day fly.
If you work alone - e.g. you're a freelance writer, editor or transcriptionist - try this to improve your typing speed.
If you transcribe audio recordings into verbatim transcripts, put pressure on yourself to race against your usual speed. Time how long it takes you to transcribe five minutes of audio; note it down. Next time try to beat that speed; note down the time again, and so on. Don't forget to maintain good accuracy as you type. And don't forget to have a few minutes' break after each fast-typing session to prevent hand strain. With practice, putting yourself under this pressure will pay off: your typing speed will improve.
If your task is copy typing, time yourself; e.g. see how long it takes you to type, say, 10 pages of typing, with accuracy. Try again, but faster. Keep trying to beat your own speed. You will get faster and faster.
We all have different types of fingers, concentration and other abilities, and the speed you're able to attain will differ depending on the person. I can type at 110 per minute which some people find it hard to do. But the world record for typing in English is 212 words per minute - a speed I'd never be able to attain no matter how hard I practised because I don't have supersonic hands.
But being a very fast touch-typist is so helpful in all sorts of ways, and you'll never know how fast you can get until you really try. So give it a go.
Reach your potential.
Sally-Anne Watson Kane has been typing for forever, and has been managing On Time Typing for the past 15 years - typing, scribing, report writing, editing and proofreading. Stay tuned for more articles about typing, scribing, editing etc.