Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Word Has Made Me a Bad Typist

Back when I was a freshman in high school, I dutifully took the required typing class. I remember those timed tests, with the counting of errors spelling out your grade at the end. And while I was never a stellar sixty-words-per-minute error-free typist, I became a pretty solid 40-words-per-minute typist with only one or two errors. I did okay.

It was only in the last month or so that I noticed those days are long gone. Somehow, without really thinking about it, I’d cherished this vision that I was still a pretty doggone decent typist. That I was reasonably fast and low on errors. But thanks to this new word-processing program I’ve been using, that illusion has been taken away.

I’ve become a terrible typist. And I blame it all on Word.

You see, this new program I’ve been using has some pretty slick multi-document organizational tools, but it doesn’t have all the bloated auto-correct features of Word. It underlines misspelled words, but it doesn’t correct them as you type.

It wasn’t until auto-correct was taken away from me that I realized how much of a crutch it’s become for me. When you get in the habit of typing words wrong (i.e., “teh” instead of “the”), and you’re typing in Word, you don’t even notice that you’re doing it, because the computer fixes it for you right away. My fingers have been trained to be lazy. Now that I’m trying to use a program that doesn’t do it, I’m annoyed at how flabby my typing skills have become.

Now, maybe it’s true that error-free typing isn’t something I should care about. Maybe it’s true that auto-correct helps me focus on the sense of what I’m writing rather than the mechanics of it. Maybe that’s a good thing. And in general I don’t mind being helped by technology—I think in many ways it does help us in good ways. But it still bothers me that I didn’t even notice how quietly my typing skills have gone away. And so I’m glad that I’m working in a word processing program that allows me to rebuild those skills a bit.