Competence in typewriting is a prerequisite in most professions. So, start now by learning to touch type.

“How do we give this candidate a job when he can’t key in his application without error?” asked the HR executive. He had a point. The e-mailed application for a programmer’s job was a mess. It was not just the odd spelling error that the HR executive might have overlooked.

The message was a keying disaster. The first-person “I” was not capitalised; the full-stops appeared two spaces away from the last letter of the sentence, inviting blue squiggly lines beneath; lack of space between the full-stop and the next sentence meant red wavy lines underneath; arbitrarily-placed upper-case letters had sprung at odd places. Ah, the words themselves were fine — they spoke of the candidate’s talents, his willingness to learn, his varied interests — but these were lost in the thorny, wavy jungle of poor typing.

Teach typing

A class of 70 high-schoolers told me “keying skills” were not part of their computer science curriculum. They were simply expected to know how to type. “As soon as we were allowed to use the computer, we worked our way around with the keyboard,” they said. A couple of them said they had taken lessons from the typing tutor, but that was for speed, not accuracy.

Schools don’t invest in teaching keying skills because they figure students are already proficient in using the keyboard. A school official said they were using “know-your-computer” time on more “important” matters since “kids already know how to type.” That is the point. Students know “how-to,” not “how-well-to.” Most students start typing on cell phones and tablets, using hunt-and-punch methods and never learn to touch-type (type without looking at the keyboard).

Since students come to school familiar with computer keyboards and cell phone keypads, educators accept the ad hoc habits of six-year-old computer gamers. Ironically, the same teachers spend hours teaching kids how to hold a pencil, how to curve the “G” stylishly — skills kids are likely to use less and less with schools accepting typed assignments. How much is perfect handwriting important in their adult lives?

Error-free typing

It matters how we type. Once I found an error in my medical report. The technician not only took a long time to type, but got a few words wrongly placed and misspelt my name. Automatic typing would have helped him concentrate on the screen and made his work error-free, but then, did he really know what "error-free" was ?

If you are preparing for a job that requires typing, isn’t it mandatory you learn it well? Isn’t it part of the job-skill requirement?

Then why isn’t it taught in schools and colleges? How come typing skills do not feature in even highly resourced, well-administrated training plans, personal development programmes or professional qualifications? Isn’t error-free typing the dominant form of creating words for most of the jobs?

Here is a sample of jobs that particularly demand accuracy in typing.

Marketing research manager: Has to design questions, prepare databases, use statistical models, write reports and develop presentation pieces; create the annual research budget, write research plans and proposals; use word-processing software for reports, spreadsheets for budgets, presentation software to showcase research findings — all of it requires error-free work.

Data-entry/processing: Have to enter data from the hard copy; type 60-70 words per minute to catch up with workload.

Medical assistants: Have to record patient-information, billing information, payment transactions.

Computer engineers: have to work with CAD (computer-assisted design) and CAM (computer-assisted mechanics) software programmes for building product models; need to use codes.

Teacher: has to maintain student records, write reports, prepare question papers, worksheets; manage software programmes to track attendance; make seating charts, construct lesson plans, create test banks and answer keys; plot graphs to explain student progress and soon.

Salesmen, human resource managers, web designers — who doesn’t need typing skills? Salespeople have to enter sales calls, orders. Human resource managers maintain records of employees on salaries, attendance, work history.

A web designer is using a keyboard all the time, designing, spacing, re-writing! And won’t we all be happier to see a doctor’s prescription typed out neatly and not written by hand?

Some tips

- Learn touch-typing so you can strike the right letter/number with the right finger without looking at the keypad.

- Slow down if you are making too many mistakes. Accuracy must be your goal. Speed comes with constant practice.

- Build up speed and accuracy by practising telephone numbers.

- Try online tutorials to improve 10-key skills. Many offer free trials.

- Explore the possibility of a typing skills programme in your college.