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Is It Keyboarding Class, or is it Typing?

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When high schools teach keyboarding, many times what they're teaching are outdated typing requirements.

I learned to type in high school on an old Royal typewriter so to this day, when I really get going, I find myself pounding pretty heavily on the keys of my keyboard. I have typed on a mostly regular basis ever since I learned how. I would say I know the Qwerty keyboard better than I know the back of my hand but I don’t really know the back of my hand very well, so it’s not a good comparison. I can type out “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs” in less time than it takes most people to answer the telephone.

Then computers became ubiquitous, and software was developed to do what typewriters couldn’t do, which meant I had to re-learn some of what I’d been taught in my typing classes.

In today’s classrooms, students don’t take typing anymore—they take keyboarding. But what most of them are really doing is taking the same typing classes I took back in high school—they’re just utilizing a different machine as the tool. That’s a good thing because typing skills are expected in all but the lowest skill-level jobs in today’s computer-based world. That’s also a bad thing, however, because typing classes don’t recognize that the tool really is a different one.

Take spaces, for example. It was drummed into my head during typing classes to use two spaces at the end of every period. This was important, because typewriters used monospace fonts—that is, each letter in a word used up exactly the same amount of space as any other. A document needed to have two spaces at the end of the period in order for the eye to see clearly the end of one sentence, and the beginning of another.

Computers, however, mostly use proportional fonts, which determine their own spacing between letters in order for the end result to be more pleasing to the eye. If you use two spaces at the end of a sentence in a computer-generated document, therefore, you will have more space between sentences than necessary, and end up with a visually unappealing document, with rivers of blank spots in the body of your text.

Another difference between what’s taught in your keyboarding class (old typing rules) versus what’s expected in documents in today’s world is knowing the difference between a hypen, an en dash and an em dash.

The hyphen is found on the key between the number zero and the +/= key on most keyboards. You will generally use the hyphen when creating compound words.

The em dash—a long line used to break up sentences—is taught in typing classes as two hyphens (space--space), breaking a sentence like this. Again, software has been developed to do what typewriters couldn’t—and the double hyphen is no longer used when the em dash is available.

The en dash, slightly shorter than the em dash, is used to designate the word ‘through’ in our sentences—for example, January–December.

Both of these marks can be set in most word processing software as an auto-correct option, or by inserting them as a symbol.

Bear in mind that typography rules (whether for typewriters or computers) are developed to create a visually pleasing document. If you use a monospaced font on the computer like COURIER, add two spaces after a period. If you’re given an assignment that requires using a particular style (say MLA style) then follow those rules. If you’re submitting a document for publication, check to see if guidelines for submissions are available.

-Trish Gannon

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Landon Otis

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