Why can't I type over 100 WPM

Who can type quickly? 136 million keystrokes evaluated

Cambridge / Helsinki - Due to the omnipresence of computers, a process has seeped into almost everyone's everyday life that many people were largely able to avoid in earlier decades: Typing. Nevertheless, our knowledge of this skill is still largely based on studies from the age of the typewriter and the professions using it, reports a Finnish-British team of scientists. The researchers at Cambridge University and Aalto University wanted to modernize this a bit.

The study

For their study, they had online test subjects transcribe randomly selected sentences. The speed and accuracy of the text input could thus be determined exactly. A total of 168,000 volunteers from over 200 countries participated, although the vast majority were from the United States. The study sample comprised a total of 136 million attacks.

On average, today's tipsters cannot keep up with the professionals of yore, the researchers conclude. The average found in the study was 52 words per minute - well below the 60 to 90 that typewriter-trained people reached earlier. However, some speed stars were also registered, which managed an incredible 120 words per minute.

Autodidacts on the rise

Since the test subjects were also asked to indicate whether they had taken a writing course or were self-taught, the researchers were able to determine that there were no significant differences between the two groups. Those who have taught themselves to type usually use fewer fingers, but this does not necessarily mean they are slower or make more mistakes.

According to the researchers, the hardware is primarily responsible for this: Today's keys are much easier to hit than those on typewriters from earlier times. This also gives amateurs a chance who cannot tap the keyboard with full ten-fingering. This should also explain why the type of mistakes made most frequently has changed: In the past, omitted or accidentally inserted letters dominated - today it is more common for letters to be swapped.

The rollover technique

The researchers see a clear difference to the typewriter era in the type of typing. Here, the "rollover technique" that was previously discovered by computer gamers has been transferred to the PC keyboard: One finger hits the next key before the previous one has snapped back into its starting position under another finger. This seems to be the key to high typing speed today: The fastest test subjects in the experiment used this technique to an extent of 40 to 70 percent.

According to Anna Feit from the University of Aalto, this technique only works with common and therefore well-practiced letter combinations - but it can be trained. The rollover maneuver is therefore one of Feit's most important tips on how to improve his typing technique. The others still read like classic recommendations from textbooks from the typewriter era: It's better to type slowly and make fewer mistakes - correcting ultimately costs more time. And of course never look at your fingers! (red, April 8, 2018)