It is now the year 2015, and while computers have become a common fixture in most places of business, many important documents are still required to be hand-written. In an age where one can write in information on a PDF and then print out the document (if a physical copy is necessary), we have to wonder why pen writing still exists. Rather than going into the standard arguments for increased use of computer technology such as environmental friendliness and organization, we’ll look at the oft-overlooked aspect of going paperless: speed.


Speed of Writers

When I refer to a writer, I am referring to the physical act of putting pen to paper to fill out paperwork. Those of us who have been typing for years know we can type faster than we can write, but is that the average or do we become the exception through practice? For the average writer, a hand-written memorized message clocks in at 31 words per minute. However, when copying a message the hand-written speed drops to a meager 22 words per minute. This speed is abysmal, but just how bad is it? Let’s take it a step further.

Speed of Typists

Now, let’s consider the average typist. A casual typist, whose use of a keyboard is limited to emails or other non-critical communications will clock in at about 41 words per minute. This might be fine for the average user, but some of us depend on our typing speeds to make a living. At the low end, the average professional typist may clock in at 50 words per minute, but this can go as high as 80. Some positions demand 80 – 95 words per minute at a minimum, and there have been recorded instances of advanced typists going as high as 120 words per minute.

Right now, for typing speed, the world record on an alphanumeric keyboard is 216 words in one minute. The fastest English language typist averaged at 150wpm over the course of an hour, with 170wpm for shorter periods. Her peak typing speed was 212wpm. This was achieved on a DVORAK-simplified style keyboard. Those of us using QWERTY style keyboards will top out at the 120wpm mark due to limitations of the style. Faster typing speeds are possible, however.

What this Means For Efficiency

Now, the question you are probably asking yourself is what this means on a large scale for businesses. As we know, time is money, and any form of writing takes time. Consider the hundreds of emails, forms, and documents that are filled out and handed in on a day to day basis in the average company. Let’s take government paperwork as an example: in 2010, Americans spent a total of 8.8 billion hours on filling out government paperwork alone, much of it handwritten. Imagine that translated into employee wages, and then imagine the savings if that figure were cut down by even one fourth. The savings would be astronomical compared to the time required to fill things out the old fashioned way. Even if you factor in the time it takes to transition, the long-term savings would still be worth it.

These days, it is clearly far better to have things typed out than to be hand-written. It is faster, cleaner, and more efficient in general. Make the transition to paperless, and your employees will thank you for it.

The writer of this article, Brennen Kliffmueller, is a frequent tech blogger who discusses many nuances of technology and considers aspects most don’t think of. He often advocates for the paperless office, and highly recommends software such as Filecenter for facilitaing the transition. You can learn more about Brennen on Google+.