I'm an intermediate-ish typist (I think?) typing at about 60 WPM, still trying to do typing tests and drills every day to improve. My 'moonshot' goal is 100 WPM, but I think my accuracy actually needs more work than my speed. Coming from a musical background, I feel that technique is critical, but there's one element/action that I haven't found a comprehensive explanation/opinion on as of yet. Specifically, do skilled touch typists press shift first, then the key they want to modify? Or do they strike them at the same time? I've been experimenting with both, and have naively identified a few pros/cons:

When typing them in sequence, there is a reduced chance of hitting the second key before shift is depressed, which helps accuracy. There's also a fairly distinct rhythm involved (for building muscle memory). The downside, for me at least, is that it sort of mentally decouples the action - this isn't such an issue when typing uppercase letters, but I have found it's impeding my ability to develop muscle memory for symbols.

One advantage of striking them at the same time seems to be an (extremely small) increase in speed - there's one less action in the sequence. The other advantage, as mentioned, is that it helps me to associate one physical action with each symbol requiring shift; as opposed to doing it 'syncopated', where I find myself creating an extra 'step' cognitively to achieve that symbol: for a colon :, compare

left pinkie on shift, right pinkie at rest on right home key


pinkie on shift, then type ;, which becomes : because shift is depressed.

Out of a respect for the strictures of classical typing techniques, as well as a need to avoid creating an opinion based question, I'm looking for the 'doctrinal' answer from the perspective of formal typing training. Has anyone ever been given specific instruction on this, either in a book/application teaching typing, or by an expert teaching a formal touch-typing class?


To enter a capital letter (or any symbol which requires multiple buttons to be pressed) you need to press the symbol's button when the modifier is pressed.

Computers check and recognise keypresses really fast and they think in sequences, so it's practically impossible to press two buttons exactly at the same time.

Best practice is always:

  • press modifier
  • quickly press and release letter
  • release modifier
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  • I understand that the actual keypress events are going to be received in sequence regardless, this is more a matter of how I should think about it for my own skill development. Regardless, you're right - no matter how I think about what I'm doing, if shift doesn't 'arrive' before the keypress, it'll produce wrong input. Only way around this would be a text editor that kept track of 'key up' instead of 'key down'... – Toadfish Jul 4 '16 at 5:04
  • All editors considers state of modifiers (pressed or not), not simply events. Otherwise how they would know whether you've pressed last one or last ten buttons while shift was pressed (e.g raM vs RAM) – Máté Juhász Jul 4 '16 at 5:13
  • I was assuming that at a low level, "shift down" would set the state "shift pressed", and "shift released/up" would transition back to "shift not pressed" if the current state was "shift pressed" - meaning in theory there could exist an editor where symbols were 'typed' on key up instead of key down, so you could type a sequence like letter-k-down, shift-key-down, shift-key-up, letter-k-up and still interpret that as meaning the symbol 'K' - logic along the lines of "if there were any shift events, prior to this key being released, apply the shift modifier" - this is not useful however – Toadfish Jul 4 '16 at 5:19

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