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Steffen Ronalter
Steffen Ronalter

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Fixing Typos while Writing -- Two Ideas

Here are some thoughts on text editing. No matter what kind of text you write -- source code, articles, to-do lists, books -- there's always a chance you get a single letter wrong at one point. Depending on your touch typing skills, this might not happen very often. But when it happens, what do you do?

  • Do you press and hold the backspace key until you get back to the typo?
  • Do you jump back to the bad letter, fix it like a surgeon1 and continue writing?

My experience

Personally, I used to (rather unconsciously) adhere to the second approach. One day, however, I found out that even the Vim editor has support for deleting the last word before the cursor while typing in insert mode. This is not typical though. Usually, there are two steps involved: first, you use movement commands to get to the desired text position and then enter insert mode.

Although I'm a big fan of Vim's fantastic movement commands, this made me change my view to another perspective. What kind of habit would you develop if every typo was really easy to fix? Your brain may think something like: "It's not critical to get it right the first time -- it's not a big deal anyway". So there's no motivation for typing words correctly on the first attempt.

Better use the first approach?

To me, deleting the entire last word sounds a bit drastic at first. You did put some effort into writing it in the first place, did you? Nevertheless, I think the training effect might be worth it. So I will try it for some time and see whether there's a positive effect on my typing.

What do you think? Are there any scientific studies about this? I would love to know your opinion and personal experience.

To be complete: the Vim editor is by far not the only one to implement the delete last word feature.
You can use Ctrl-w on the terminal and inside Emacs. Many GUI applications support Ctrl-Backspace for doing the same.

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  1. Example for Vim: Let's say you wrote 'house' instead of 'horse', you can do 'Furr' to fix that. 

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