Most poeple know that typing speed on a computer keyboard is measured in words per minute (wpm). Since words are not all the same size it would not be fair to measure someone’s typing speed counting the actual number of words taken randomly from a textbook. Consider the following sentences:

  1. I often drink coffee.
  2. I embrace serendipitous happenings.

Sentence #1 has 4 words, 21 characters including 3 spaces and 1 period. Sentence #2 has 4 words as well but is much longer with 35 characters including 3 spaces and 1 period. Both sentences have 4 words and if you type them in one minute you type at 4 wpm. Right? No, this is wrong.

Based on this calculation a person taking a typing test with lots of sentences like #1 will perform almost twice as fast as a person taking a test containing lots of sentences like #2, because the words in sentence #2 are much longer than the ones in #1. This is not correct obviously because sentence #1 contains 21 characters v.s. 35 for #2.

To remedy this, in the definition of typing speed (source below) a word is defined as 5 characters, including punctuation signs and spaces.

Therefore:

  1. I often drink coffee => Five 5-letter words.
  2. I embrace serendipitous happenings => Seven 5-letter words.

With this definition the typing speed (wpm) is linked to the number of characters so it can be measured across different texts and languages.

Quick facts about typing speed

An average typing speed is considered to be between 50 to 70 wpm, and the fastest people can reach is 180 wpm and above. Two-finger typists (easily found in countries that do not have typing classes, like France, that did not figure out that computers are not going away anytime soon and still do not teach typing in schools) can type between 27 to 37 wpm for the fastest. Handwriting is usually between 22 and 31 wpm, and books on tape are recommended to be recorded around 150 wpm.

(source for all these facts)

In conclusion, touch typing is one of the fastest way to enter text into a machine. As opposed to using the mouse, some argue that using keyboard shortcuts is also the fastest way to operate a computer graphical interface.