Lion of the Blogosphere

Typing beats handwriting

I scored 98 WPM on this online typing test.

That’s a lot faster than I can write, which is about 108 LPM using cursive and 144 LPM printing (which is about 26 and 34 WPM when calculated the way typing is calculated). This may seem slow compared to my typing, but it’s actually well above average for adult handwriting speed. Even my rusty cursive is above average.

My typewritten text is a lot more legible than my handwriting, and it can easily be shared on the internet without having to scan it. Typing beats handwriting by a pretty huge margin both in speed (three times as fast) and practicality.

* * *

If I had to write a handwritten letter, I would probably type it out first, and then copy it from my computer screen. This is the opposite of how it used to be done, when one would write a letter out by hand and then send it to a typing pool.

* * *

A few years ago I switched to a computer for note-taking whenever possible. A lot of people haven’t made this move yet because they have grown up taking notes by hand and using a computer seems strange, but I assure you that once you get used to it, it works a lot better.

That is, if you really need to take notes in order to remember or record something (which is the case with almost all business meetings). For the purpose of learning intellectually difficult material that you can study in advance, there is evidence that it is better to use handwritten notes.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 30, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Posted in Psychology

29 Responses

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  1. wow that is really fast since pros are 60-80 wpm

    grey enlightenment

    December 30, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    • 60 wpm is how fast I thought I could type based on measurements taken a long time ago, but I guess I have improved through constant daily practice.

      According to the website, 98wpm is in the 97th percentile.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 30, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      • 60-80 used to be the standard for pros on mechanical typewriters, but on computers where there is no waiting for physical movements you can get much faster.


        December 30, 2014 at 11:29 AM

  2. I view all personal electronic devices as just one more thing to lose. I can live with the loss of a notepad. Not so much a $500 Ipad.


    December 30, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    • An iPad is hard to lose because it’s so big. I did lose an iPod Touch, which was a $300 loss and I had to change all of my passwords for everything ASAP.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 30, 2014 at 11:18 AM

  3. 103 WPM with 2 wrong words.

    But I don’t think that’s a valid test. It’s just random words. When you are typing real text, you can anticipate what’s coming and actually go faster. Also, it’s easy to really focus on speed in a one minute sprint. Typing at that rate over time is a lot harder. I’m sure if that test were 20 minutes I wouldn’t be at the same speed.

    And really, who is typing in order to copy text anymore? If you’re typing you are generally writing the content, not copying it, and of course you get delayed by your thought process. But it’s really really helpful to be able to get thoughts down quickly when you can type fast.


    December 30, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    • It’s true that burst speed will always be higher than sustained speed. But that’s how it’s measured. It’s a legitimate test.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 30, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    • “When you are typing real text, you can anticipate what’s coming and actually go faster” – I’m not sure this is much of a factor, because you can read ahead quite a few words on that website.
      (I scored 119 WPM, 2 wrong words, >99th percentile, and this is definitely not slower than I type regular text.)

      Jim Haggerty

      December 30, 2014 at 2:04 PM

  4. “There is evidence that in”…?

    Looks like your typing failed you there.


    December 30, 2014 at 11:39 AM

  5. “I would probably type it out first, and then copy it from my computer screen.”

    This is what I do. Ease of word processing has ruined my ability to write a decent paragraph from whole cloth. For instance, in that last sentence I changed three words after typing it the first time. It has also given me a new-found respect for the writers of old that could write beautiful prose on the first draft. Read a personal correspondence from Jefferson or Madison, it’s amazing when you stop and thing about it.

    Happy New Year, H.S.


    December 30, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    • How do you know that you’re reading their first drafts and not their second drafts?

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 30, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      • Yeah, I’ve wondered that. I figured writing long hand was so much effort they were highly motivated to get it right the first time. Plus it was personal correspondence, would people make multiple drafts of letters to friends? I may edit my emails to friends, but I never make multiple drafts.


        December 30, 2014 at 11:39 PM

  6. In the ’80s in SF, I knew a guy who was in the Guinness book as the world’s fastest typist, at 160 wpm on a manual. Name of Ron Mingo, a very funny 6’2″/250 guy who grew up in South Central. We were on.the same semi-pro basebal tleam. He couldn’t hit all, and so I was amazed one day when a bunch of kids surrounded him for autographs. I asked what’s up, and was told, “oh yeah, Mingo’s famous – he was on ‘That’s
    Incredible’.” You can see him here:

    department 11

    December 30, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    • “I practice 4-5 hours a day 7 days a week. I love it.”

      That’s how you become the best at anything; natural talent + 4-5 hrs a day 7 days a week.


      December 30, 2014 at 3:44 PM

  7. Isn’t there a font that can mimic handwriting?


    December 30, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    • It can’t be done with just a font.

      HOWEVER, it’s certainly within the capabilities of computers to generate human-like handwriting from typed text.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 30, 2014 at 3:30 PM

  8. How fast can you type on your iPhone 6 vs a Blackberry?


    December 30, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    • I’m not good at typing on either. On an iPhone I am a one-finger typer, and I keep tapping the wrong key.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 30, 2014 at 4:32 PM

  9. 98 WPM is really really fast! I peaked at 80 WPM in 8th grade and have stayed consistent ever since. On the test you linked I got 79 WPM – just about dead on.

    Jokah Macpherson

    December 30, 2014 at 7:40 PM

  10. 108 wpm. Does anyone actually use that standard typing finger placement? I mainly use my index fingers and right middle finger when typing, Left thumb for the space button.


    December 30, 2014 at 9:51 PM

  11. What is amazing is that there are still organizations that do not want people taking notes on a computer. How many organizations would tolerate everyone bringing a notebook computer to a meeting. How many meeting rooms have the infrastructure so that everyone could have a tablet or notebook computer?


    December 31, 2014 at 6:05 AM

  12. you can race each other on the site type-racer.

    my average speed is 107 words per minute (as measured by 286 races) which, according to this site, corresponds to a typing speed percentile of 99.1%. the site tries to match racers by skill level so you’re not just getting random competitors but people close to your skill level. of the 286 races i have raced, i have won 197. i don’t know how marketable/useful ultra fast typing ability is in the workforce but apparently i’m a member of the typing elite. i wonder if there’s a typist mensa.

    James N.S.W

    December 31, 2014 at 7:26 AM

  13. Lion, what languages do you have occasion to write in, and do you often need to draw graphs, diagrams, and other figures?

    I prefer to hand-write notes because of these things: you can write in any direction, go to any part of the page easily, add to sections of the page without making the “document” longer, and mix and match any language or character set you like without the cumbersome input-method switches that a computer requires.

    Here in Asia there are many characters that people can read but not pronounce, and unlike when this is the case in European languages where you can still generally type the character, here we probably won’t be able to type it, but can still hand-write it. (Though it is increasingly becoming a problem that people cannot hand-write characters that they can easily read.)

    I took a class in introductory Hittite once. I think those cuneiform characters are in Unicode now, but good luck typing them. We all took old-fashioned notes. Where I integrate technology is to use my phone to take pictures of what is on the white/blackboard after a class or meeting. I still have my Hittite “notes” saved this way.


    December 31, 2014 at 8:36 AM

  14. Typing can be a life-saving skill. I found this out from an Army Air Force veteran. He raised his hand when the commander asked if anyone was a skilled typist. He had never used a typewriter. He spent the war hunting-and-pecking on an Air Force base in England as squadron after squadron of his colleagues were sent to their deaths in bombing missions over occupied Europe.

    It reminded me of the movie Twelve O’clock High, set on an Air Force base in England. The story is told from the perspective of the base’s bookkeeper, because damn near everybody else in the story dies.

    10 wpm

    December 31, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    • My dad’s friend joined the U.S. Navy for a four-year tour… as a typist/secretary in Navy Intelligence. (Back then there was a draft, so people would join up in order to avoid being drafted into a potentially worse job. An office job was preferable to actually serving in a combat unit.)

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 31, 2014 at 10:16 AM

  15. This is the One True Typing Tutor.

    Dystopia Max

    December 31, 2014 at 11:13 PM

  16. The elite uses Kurrentschrift, the proles type on a computer or tablet or tardphone.


    January 3, 2015 at 4:02 AM

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