Although there are many forms of typing classes and courses for typists, there is one leading accredited touch-typing qualification in the UK. Its name is ‘e-type’ – not to be confused with the classic car – and it is an internationally recognised method of keyboard training that allows students to successfully touch-type at speeds of up to 60 words per minute, with 98 per cent spelling accuracy.
Let your fingers do the walking
For novices, a keyboard can be a daunting and confusing place. The arrangement of letters in three oblique rows was deliberately chosen to restrict typing speeds, preventing people from working faster than the ribbon-powered typewriters of the early 20th century could handle. As a result, typing a word like ‘physical’ involves a great deal of dexterity, and inexperienced computer users will probably find themselves laboriously searching for each individual letter, or tapping away with the index fingers of either hand.
Slow typists regularly become frustrated that their hands can’t match the speed of their thoughts, while it’s impossible to transcribe a conversation unless typing is almost an instinctive process. It’s also worth noting that looking at the keyboard typically induces a head-down curved-spine posture, with adverse consequences in terms of posture and backache.
Life in the fast lane
The beauty of e-type courses centres on the way students are taught to type without looking at their fingers. Instead, they will be able to concentrate on the computer screen (allowing instant identification of mistakes), or perform copy typing, which involves transcribing the contents of a printed or hand-written document into an electronic format. More specialised tasks like audio or shorthand typing (creating electronic documents based on the contents of recorded voice files or shorthand notes) can also be undertaken.
Practice makes perfect
Like playing the piano, touch-typing relies on familiarity with the keyboard and an intuitive knowledge of where each key is. Nobody can play the piano at their first attempt, but repeated practice will herald greater confidence and increasing prowess, until the process of tinkling the ivories becomes almost subconscious. An e-type course aims to have a similar effect on each student’s typing abilities, enabling them to progress onto other courses like an ECDL course. The skills learned from e-type can be practiced at home, at any time, as typing speeds gradually increase and errors start to diminish.
In the age of cloud computing and mobile internet access, there are very few jobs that don’t require some form of keyboard operation. All office or desk-based positions will involve computer literacy, as will all management and sales roles. As well as featuring on pretty much every mobile phone on sale in the UK, the iconic QWERTY keyboard layout pops up everywhere from the tablet devices used by delivery drivers to the sat-nav screens of company cars. Being able to navigate a keyboard is absolutely essential for any career nowadays, and this is increasingly the case for domestic and social activities as well. Along with the humble mouse, the keyboard remains the default method of entering data into a computer, and even devices without a keyboard (such as games consoles) will usually display a QWERTY layout that users can select letters from. Typing is essential for email, social media, communicating with people online and even completing forms on websites.
Impress the boss every time
High typing speeds and the ability to touch-type are highly prized skills among employers, and an e-type qualification could provide you with a crucial edge over rival candidates. From an employer’s perspective, touch-typing indicates a high level of efficiency and productivity, as well as highlighting the fact that an applicant wishes to develop their skillset beyond conventional secondary or higher education qualifications.
The right type
The line between typing and word processing is becoming increasingly blurred nowadays, and typing courses increasingly teach skills that would also be relevant to modern word processing packages. Computerised features like the automatic correction of spelling mistakes or the capitalisation of words after a full-stop have made a career as a typist much easier than before, and software-based spell checkers can avoid any unfortunate errors slipping through the net. However, a keen eye is still required among typists or word processor operators, and one of the greatest benefits of being able to touch-type is that users can keep their eyes glued to the screen as each word appears, identifying (and correcting) mistakes along the way.
By Neil Cumins