Researchers from the University of Waterloo have published an article in the current issue of the British Journal of Psychology, titled “Effects of disfluency in writing”, that demonstrates an inverse relationship between typing speed and quality of writing.
Long story short, the quality of your writing will improve if you slow down your typing pace. But not too much.
Using text analysis software, researchers Srdan Medimorec and Evan Risko asked students to type using both hands, and then to use only one hand, composing several short essays on subjects such as a memorable school day, an event that had a positive impact on their lives, and whether or not they supported a ban on cell phones for high school students.
“Typing can be too fluent or too fast, and can actually impair the writing process,” said the study’s lead author Medimorec, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Arts at Waterloo. “It seems that what we write is a product of the interactions between our thoughts and the tools we use to express them.”
Their analysis found that students who restricted their typing to using only one hand force them into a more sophisticated vocabulary, owing to students having more time to search for words internally, using their brains.
“This is the first study to show that when you interfere with people’s typing, their writing can get better,” said Professor Risko, Canada Research Chair in Embodied and Embedded Cognition and senior author of the study. “We’re not saying that students should write their term papers with one hand, but our results show that going fast can have its drawbacks. This is important to consider as writing tools continue to emerge that let us get our thoughts onto the proverbial page faster and faster.”
It’s a counterintuitive finding, given that people with slow transcription skills are often pegged as being worse qualitative writers than touch-typists, who are assumed to be skilled at both typing and composition.
But as Truman Capote once said of Jack Kerouac, “That’s not writing. That’s typing.”
The researchers suggest that any means of slowing down the writing process would improve the quality of writing, whether we’re talking about speech-to-text program, or keyboards versus pen and paper.
Interestingly, though, they also suggest that going too slow, like using a hunt-and-peck method could be a hindrance on writing quality, probably because the writer is using too much brain power searching for letters while simultaneously trying to think of what to write.
It’s long been assumed, and in 2014 proved by research, that writing things by hand helps you retain information more fully, making a strong case for retaining the teaching of cursive writing in schools, which is unfortunately in danger of finding itself outside the curriculum.
Now, if only they could demonstrate some link between the speed at which someone talks and the quality of their conversation.
Below: Why Cursive Is So Good For Your Brain!