A common misconception in discussions about typing speed is that
any speed above, say, maybe 80 wpm, isn’t going to hinder anyone when trying to put anything into the computer
This particular version comes from an article that’s really about something else, but I’ve heard it in almost every discussion. Let’s examine it.
To be clear, at a steady state in a mature project, I get something like 125 lines of code into production per week. If a line of code corresponds to something like 10 words, and we divide that by my 35-hour work week1 Bless Sweden and their generous culture around parental leave., it would seem like I can type only one word per minute and still get my job done.
But the problem isn’t throughput. If throughput was the concern, most professionals could get by with far less than 80 words per minute. Even writers who work in their natural language struggle with producing more than a few pages per day; counting charitably, that’s less than 5 words per minute.
Throughput is not the issue. Latency is.
What can we do when we are able to type faster?
Someone writing prose can try multiple ways of shaping their sentences and see how the sentences interact with each other.
When I write articles for this site, I’m sure I produce well over 5× the content that ends up in the final article, re-writing and re-structuring and deleting things continuously. This happens very quickly, and I don’t do it when I write on a touchscreen or with pen-and-paper, because I write too slowly on those media. Fast typing unlocks this technique.
Someone writing code can think of how to structure the code, then put it down into code and very quickly move on to think about the next thing. It’s difficult to type and think at the same time, so any time spent writing is a pause in thoughts, which can derail the flow.
When I write code on a touchscreen or a small keyboard, I find it harder to keep track of where I’m going next, because it takes so damn long to get a line of code out of my head and onto the screen.
You can argue that someone writing at 80 words per minute can get a line of code down in 8 seconds, and learning to write at 120 words per minute will improve this by a mere three seconds, so what’s the big deal?
I don’t have any science to point to, but imagine being forced to sit and do nothing (not even think!) for three seconds after every five seconds of typing. That would drive me up the wall!
I completely agree with this. I’ve been working on my own 30 day challenge to boost my typing speed, and the reason is similar to what’s stated in this article: it’s about latency, it’s not the seconds saved.
You mentioned in the article, but I mostly think of it as: the faster one types, the shorter the iteration time. When you can type roughly as fast as you’d normally speak, it’s a totally different experience than t-y-p-i-n-g each word of a sentence.
(Jonathan has a YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@JonathanWhitmore/)