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Expert opinion on the assessment of a typist's speed is divided but the general consensus seems to be that a rate of 30wpm (words per minute) is slow, a speed of 31-54wpm is average and 55wpm and above is fast. Anything over 100wpm is considered to be very fast, particularly if it completed with no errors.
The honour of the fastest officially recorded typing speed goes to Mrs Barbara Blackburn of Portland, Oregon who entered the Guinness World Book of Records in 1985 with a sustained typing speed of 150wpm which she managed to maintain over a period of 50 minutes. Her top recorded speed was assessed at 212wpm!
Barbara set her world record using a Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (DSK) which has a different configuration than the normal Qwerty system now in current use. The Dvorak layout has vowels on one side and consonants on the other with the most frequently used letters collected in the middle row of the keyboard. She continued to use this system until she retired from her position with The State Farm Insurance Company in Salem in 2002 after a long and happy career.
With the average salary for a secretary in the banking and finance sector currently standing at £24,000, for those in customer services, £20,000 and for IT workers, £17,000, developing the skills needed for high speed touch typing can provide entry into a lucrative, varied and highly transferable career. So for all those budding 'Barbaras' who would like to improve their typing speed and accuracy, or for the novice typist looking to supplement their income with some home based typing assignments, one may wonder what tools and systems are available to help reach a higher level of employability.
The Touch Typing Typist Tutor has been used for training purposes since its creation in 1985 and is now the longest serving typing tutor on the UK market. It provides the user with the techniques required to improve their typing speed and their accuracy by enabling them to concentrate on the content of their work rather than the keyboard.
The package includes 201 lessons which progress from basic two letter exercises gradually building in complexity until all of the letters on the keyboard are being incorporated. The course is designed to deliver a series of letter and word combinations to guide the user through the programme, at the same time offering support, feedback and creative exercises to keep the content interesting.
Once they have completed all of the lessons, the user can start to develop their speed and accuracy. They are encouraged to 'own' their rate of progress, assessing their rate of improvement and identifying any areas of weakness which will need additional practice.
The makers of the Touch Typing Typist Tutor make no extravagant claims about turning anyone into a world class typist but they do have great faith in their product, firmly believing that the discipline can be mastered through a combination of instruction and practical application.
Costs for the programme start from 18 US dollars (approx. £11) for the download model and from £20 for the CD Rom option. New features and upgrades are available by returning the original CD to Typing Tutor for installation or by downloading.
Many professional touch typists will tell you that the only way to really improve typing speeds and standard of accuracy is to practice, practice, and then practice some more! There are now many games on the market, available to download or to play for free online, which will give the opportunity to combine exercises for developing speed with having a little fun as well.
The Type Fast package features three different games; Drop Down, Fast Run and Get Fly. Each game has the same basic principle where a serious of random words appear from different directions on the screen which the gamer has to duplicate and type in before time runs out. As the game progresses, the speed increases, keeping the player on their toes!
Snow Type is all about keeping the cute snowman alive. Words fall like snow and the gamer must type them in before they hit the ground to prevent the snowman losing his limbs and features and 'melting' away!
The aim of Word Mountain is to travel across foreign lands, climbing mountains as you go. The mountains are scaled by typing in the given words as quickly as possible, all the while being pursued by the evil Computer Climber!
Although these applications won't be able to teach you any of the basic strategies for learning how to touch type, they will help the novice to develop their speed, accuracy and dexterity without getting bored from having to follow the same exercise manuals.
For those who would like to learn the basic touch typing skills and develop their words per minute rate but who would prefer not to make much (or any!) financial investment, there are numerous free Online Typing Tutors which will guide you through the core principles of finger placement and keyboard layout. They will even give you handy tips on the best posture for optimum results; sitting straight with feet flat to the floor, elbows close to the sides of the body, forearms straight and wrists level! If you are still able to move at all in that position, you will then progress through a series of lessons and exercises to familiarise yourself with the techniques and, hopefully, develop the speed and accuracy you are looking for.
For course fees from £195, Star Touch offer a one day programme which, through a series of accelerated learning and interactive techniques, will guarantee to have you touch typing by the end of the day. They will teach the basics, accurate fingering and no peeking at the keyboard - but, as with all 'type faster' solutions, the real progress begins when you get home and start that practice!