Why Typing Speed Doesn’t Matter"

May 10, 2023  • Free Weekly Developer Newsletter

Did you notice that the most popular YouTube channels on productivity have one thing in common. They have least one video on typing 150+ words per minute. Does it matter how fast you type or is it yet another reason to procrastinate?

Nowadays every office worker needs to know how to use computer and be keyboard proficient. The most of our jobs require critical thinking and performing analysis. The typing speed isn’t the factor that slows down work. Usually, our brains aren’t capable to process data to catch up with our typing speed.

Stephen King is one of the most prolific authors. He wrote 64 novels and he writes up to 2000 words per work day. If we assume he writes for 6 hours daily. It means he types about 340 words per hour (not per minute!). King is creative but the limit is his brain’s computing power, no his typing speed.

You might say that you are a developer, and you cannot relate to the most creative writers. Companies don’t hire software engineers to write code but to solve problems. Amount of written lines of code isn’t the denominator. They want you to complete your tasks in simplest and fastest fashion.

If you are a new to software engineering and you love your job. You might feel tempted to write everything from scratch. It is great since at the early stages of you career you should produce as much code as possible to gain experience. Along with your career, you will discover that your job isn’t about code itself.

The most of companies need to sell some products to make money. It means most of them need to integrate some payment system. Obviously they could build those systems on their own but it doesn’t make much sense. They need to focus on their business, not processing payments. Why would you build payment system on you own if Stripe or Shopify will charge you a fraction of the development cost?

Imagine the complexity of custom payment system. It needs to have some sort of fraud detection. Storing credit cards in a secure environment, and dealing with customer support. Planning and building it would take months and would cost millions.

Along with your seniority, your mindset is going to change from being a code producer to reducer. You will try to reduce the amount of code in your project because every line of code brings cost and complexity. Once project reaches certain size you will focus maintenance rather than new features. The ultimate excellence is reached when you don’t write code to solve the problem.

I have been working at 7 different companies. Successful and failed startups, SMEs and enterprises. In my entire career I have never seen a developer who could write more than 500 lines of code in work day.

Based on my observation: senior developers write between 100 and 250 lines of code per work day. Actually, junior developers write more lines of code than seniors. Since they usually receive well planned tasks.

Let’s assume you are an outlier and you write 500 lines of code per work day. The most of teams restrict their line length to 80-120 characters. If we assume that an average word has 5 characters each line would have up to 16 words. 500 lines times 16 words per line sums up to 8000 words. It is four times more than Stephan King. If you are a “slow writer” and you write only 60 words per minute. It would mean you will write those 8000 words within about 2 hours. I want to emphasize one fact - it is four times more than Stephan King does during his work routine.

Nowadays tools such as Github Copilot or ChatGPT completely changed the coding game. You cannot type faster than AI model. Machine will always beat you, so that your typing speed becomes even less relevant. But it doesn’t mean that you can write with one finger. You must be keyboard proficient and be able to type without looking on keyboard. When you reach pace of 80-120 words per minute your job is done.

The greatest impact on your career will be learning code syntax and design patterns. How to write loops, when use singletons and why you shouldn’t do it, dependency injection, inversion of control, facades, decorators and so on. If you work on a new codebase the majority of time you will write code. After working on the project with many developers you will find out that you spend more time on reading code than writing.

After I graduated college I moved to Vienna, Austria to start my first real job in IT. Austria is a german speaking country and they have different keyboard layout. I am used to English international keyboard. German keyboard layout is so different even apostrophes are in different places.

The company I worked for encouraged pair programming sessions between developers. Imagine my frustration during pair programming sessions with my Austrian colleagues. When I tried to type apostrophe and got an umlaut. About 4 years ago I moved out of Vienna. I never learnt German keyboard layout but i’m glad that I never did. English is a lingua franca of programming. We should not only speak and write code in English but should use the same keyboard layout when we code together. In the end, if there are ISO standards for time and dates why shouldn’t we have one for keyboard layouts?

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