A quick brown fox, a buzzy bee and a vole or three

Touch-typing drills are incredibly boring, especially for someone like me, with the sticking power and attention span of a gnat. Witness the fact that I’m now writing a post instead of doing a touch-typing drill.

I am trying to improve my touch typing speeds. I taught myself touch-typing many years ago, from a book, on an ancient black typewriter. The keys were so heavy you had to hammer them from a great height to make any impression – resulting in hands of steel, no matter how flabby the remainder. In the days when electronic typewriters and then word processors were appearing in offices, younger typists used to sneer at older typists (whose speeds were usually considerably higher) for hammering the keys unnecessarily hard. Old habits are hard to break but they can be broken, with a bit of effort. To reconfigure an old saying of Winston Churchill’s*

I can adjust my technique to suit this new-fangled contraption by tomorrow morning, when you’ll still be typing at twenty words a minute.

Having acquired this skill meant I could apply for office jobs, and I worked in offices for years, slaving away, typing day in and day out. I was to end my ‘career’ ingloriously in a call centre, recording rambling, incoherent answers from ‘respondents’ as to the merits of cheese or their preference for cars over bicycles or vice versa, verbatim (absolutely word for word) – infinitely more challenging than the clear, measured dictation provided by a solicitor.

I also do 90% of my writing (creative/blogging) on the word-processor, so my speeds have stuck around – even now I clock up 65 words a minute. However, I could be faster. The reason I am not faster is that I get tripped up on numbers (which I was too stupid and lazy to learn in the first place) and pesky little weevils like hyphens, hash-keys, exclamation marks and forward-slashes. The second your concentration falters, you have to look at the keyboard. During a speed test that means the whole enterprise goes to hell in a handcart.

So – I’m grimly polishing all the bits I need to polish, aiming to get up to 80. Apparently some splended typists can manage 100. In 2005 the record – or at least one of the records, since there are different records for the manual typewriter, the electronic typewriter and the computer keypad – was set by writer Barbara Blackburn. That might have been broken by now. Barbara was the fastest English language typist in the world, maintaining 150 words per minute for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. At peak speeds she has clocked 212 wpm. Barbara Blackburn – respect!

In the meantime, it has occurred to me that at least some of these daft sentences might serve as writing prompts, for any scribe in search of a challenge. See what you can do with these:

  1. In order to coax Xavier to eat he devised a quaint plan.
  2. The fox jumped over the exit box and captured the voles.
  3. Dad did his usual good deed dividing the cod decisively.
  4. Find a fat frog and float it in the fast flowing stream!
  5. Kathy and Kirsty kept kicking each other as they walked.
  6. Olive opted for the old book rather than the new one.
  7. Robert rolled down the road regretting his recklessness.
  8. Ned and Nancy knew they needed to be together all night.
  9. In the lazy hazy days of summer, Suzannah zoomed around.
  10. Amy bought 16 lollies, 18 sherbets and 9 chocolate bars.

I might have a go at one of them myself – when I’ve done my hour of practice!


When accused by Lady Astor (the first female British Member of Parliament) or Bessie Braddock, MP – depending on which version you choose to believe – of being ‘disgustingly drunk’ Prime Minister Churchill replied: ‘My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.’

2 thoughts on “A quick brown fox, a buzzy bee and a vole or three

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