How can I improve my typing speed?

We regularly recruit new transcribers to our team and like to think we offer competitive rates for transcribing and translation as well as a friendly working environment and support. However, unlike a lot of transcription companies, we only recruit transcribers who can type at a particular speed and with a certain level of accuracy. In order to become a transcriber with us a new applicant has to pass a transcription test.

We require fast typing speeds because transcription work is usually involving the typing of spoken word and not spoken word at dictation speeds. The spoken word during an interview is considerably faster than the usual dictation speed audio typists experience. If your typing speed is not at a certain level, usually at least 45 if not 55 words per minute, you will not find it easy to do transcription work on a long term basis.


So how can you increase your typing speed and what is the fastest way of doing this? We have been asked this question numerous times and the simple answer is to practice. The more practice you do, the faster your speed is going to get.

However, practice has to be relevant practice. As most transcription work is the production of transcripts of interviews or groups of people talking, the practice needs to be along the same lines. One easy way of practising is to think about transcribing an interview from The Today Programme on Radio 4 for a few minutes a day. At the same time, think about transcribing a bit of Any Questions on a Friday night for practice at recording a group. Both of these programmes would be an easy way to start and it should be quite easy to develop a routine on a weekly basis.

Use both hands

When transcribing, try to make sure you use your full hands to type. One of the most difficult things for transcribers without much keyboard experience is to actually type rather than use single fingers, which iPad users tend to do for example. This may well cause physical injury over a period of time, particularly at the speeds a transcriber needs to be able to type at.

At the same time, because of the speed involved, conversation and speech are more fluid. Speakers like to instinctively maintain fluency, so they will very often use filler words during sentences. ‘Like’, ‘erm’, ‘you know what I mean’, ‘the truth of the matter’ etc.. It can take some time to get used to this as well when transcribing rather than audio typing dictation for example.


You need to be able to zone in on the speakers and switch off from every day life around you when transcribing. It is not something you can do half-heartedly whilst performing other tasks, so again you can practice concentrating on an audio recording and excluding external sounds.

Improve your spelling

Another area to consider practising would be spelling and grammar. Its a lot easier transcribing audio if you know what the words are being spoken and how to type these quickly. Admittedly spell checkers are a fantastic resource, but in terms of speeding up your typing it can be very useful to recognise any gaps in your spelling & grammar skills – eg the correct use of ‘there’, ‘they’re’ and ‘their’.

Suggested practice

We think that if you practice your typing from audio recordings for just 5 minutes a day, you can increase your typing speed quite quickly over a fairly short period of time. And of course if you have started transcribing for us your speed will be maintained as you get used to regular transcription work.

In fact we would challenge anyone looking to increase their speed to have a go at this exercise – at 8.10am each day, listen to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 and transcribe the next 3 minutes of interview without stopping to correct your work. Measure your typing speed at the start of the week – there are plenty to choose from – eg

Do the exercise for 2 weeks and then try your typing speed again. Although the typing speed tests are checking your ability to type words on the screen in front of you, the fact you are working at a high speed on audio will increase your typing speed generally. Have a go and let us know how you get on!

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