It’s good to type


Good to see Microsoft banging the drum for the importance of typing. As the Daily Telegraph reported:

Microsoft found that 43pc of bosses think being able to type is a crucial work skill but more than four out of 10 British workers peck away at their keyboard with just one or two fingers – and more than half can’t hit the 50 word per minute (wpm) minimum.

Microsoft questioned 500 employers about their staff’s typing skills and found a 38pc believe being able to type enhances productivity and 20pc said their companies would grind to a halt if staff were unable to touch type of type quickly.

It’s topic I’ve raised before:

Typing – an important skill that we neither teach nor require

Recently I was sat in a GP’s surgery waiting for him to type out a prescription for me. Until that point I had been nothing but impressed with his patience and knowledge. Then I saw how painfully slowly he attacked the keyboard, poking at it with a few select fingers as if it was too hot to touch, swiftly withdrawing his fingers to safe distance after each quick poke at a key.

The prescription that rolled off the computer was accurate, so what was the problem save for a few extra seconds passed in chit chat whilst he did the fingers dancing on hot coals turn with the keyboard?

It’s simply this. GPs spend a large number of years learning their profession, and the state puts in huge amounts of money to honing and then harnessing their skills. They learn to do all sorts of things, and their job inevitable involves large amounts of typing – yet how to type isn’t taught, isn’t required and isn’t expected.

Poor typists take up time and make more mistakes. Even small slices of time wasted add up quickly; the mistakes can be far more serious.

This isn’t just a matter of my personal experience or even just for GPs. It is widespread through both the public and private sector that jobs can be done quicker and better by people who can type, but typing skills are not asked for, not required and do not feature in even highly resourced or heavily administrated training plans, personal development programs or professional qualifications.

A while back I was chatting to a former senior civil servant and he expressed very similar views about the welfare system. Want to speed up the system and cut down on mistakes he asked me over a hot chocolate? Get the DWP staff who spend most of their day at a computer off on typing courses.

Look at the range of advice and training people do get, and you find typing sits in a weird limbo. Advice on how to adjust your chair and arrange your posture so that your hands are poised over your keyboard in a safe and comfortable way? Check. Guidance on which keys do what in the computer program you are using? Check. Training on how to quickly and accurately use your hands to press those keys? No, sorry – that’s not what we do here.

So here is my question for those into our education policies; why do we value ensuring people can write by hand so highly yet value teaching typing so lowly, even though typing has become the dominant form of creating words for so very many people most of the time?

And here’s my question for those into improving public services: why do we employ so many people in jobs that are done better and quicker by skilled touch typists yet neither require such skills nor train people to have them?

The answers I’ve received in the past, by the way, to my questions have usually been supportive of teaching typing and expecting workers to be able to type more often.

There is a reasonable caveat about where the time should come from in a crowded school curriculum, but given that typing is a skill almost everyone can then deploy regularly through the rest of their life, outside work as well as in work, it’s got a darn good case for prioritisation in the pressured school day.


PS Fans of the Hello Internet podcast which I’ve covered before know of course that typing by pecking away at the keyboard really should be called Brady Typing.


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