When Patrick Gray graduated from Boston College in 1999, he was determined to become a detail-oriented professional. He started with perhaps the most overlooked detail of contemporary office culture: typing.
"It represented kind of bigger things to me. I thought, 'It's time to be a professional and learn to type for real,'" he explains. "I went cold turkey from two-finger typing. I thought, 'Even if it takes me 10 minutes on an e-mail, I'm going to force myself to do it the right way.'"
"I think these skills are going downhill in most offices. There's less of this training at the high school and college level," says Sally Mounts, president of Auctus Consulting Group. "It's kind of ironic, because we're all typing more than ever now, but we're less cognizant of typing skills."
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It took a full month of home-row discipline for Gray -- now the president of Prevoyance Group, an IT company -- to get his speed back up to where it was when he started: 20 words per minute. But after six months he was sailing along at three times that rate.
"Growing up with computers, most people tend to two- or four-finger type. The hardest thing about retraining yourself is the first hour," says Mounts. "It doesn't get worse than that. So if you can get through an hour, you're on your way."
Software to help you leave hunting and pecking behind:
The cheaper route, $5:
XType is the leading typing tutor in the Mac App Store. It promises an addictive game-play format.
The standard, $30:
Mavis Beacon by Brunderbund Software has been the standard in typing tutorials since the 1980s. The software promises a two-week course with personalized lessons and arcade-style games.
Talk about texts
TypingWeb Typing Tutor by FTW Innovations is a free app for the iPhone and iTouch. It tracks your typing speed and progress as you text.