by Pari

This is the second in my series about occupational hazards for writers.

Lately I’ve become aware of a chronic condition that has dire consequences for my future relationships with copyeditors, my agent and others.

I can trace it back to when I was eleven. That late 1960s’ summer, my mother decided I needed a skill of some sort. While I thought my guitar playing had money-making potential, she insisted on something more mundane. Beginning on the second day of my vacation, I had to walk four miles every day to my pediatrician’s house.

No. I wasn’t sick yet . . .

It was his wife I had to see. Mrs. Levin was a retired typing teacher. She’d spent decades at a “business college” teaching future secretaries how to hit those keys—quickly and accurately.

So for three months while other kids splashed at pools and played in the sun, I sat in a small pantry that had been converted into an office and typed juj juj juj juj ftf ftf ftf fuf fuf fuc fuc . . .uck uck uck . . .

It was hell.

I hated it.

I’m pretty sure that’s when my condition began, though it had a long incubation period.

After 90 days – yes, I had to practice on weekends too – I could type faster than I could think. (It was a more amazing feat back then than it is now). Since that time, my hands have flitted easily on any keyboard, my fingers tap-tapping words without inhibition. With few dexterity issues to block me, I could write whatever wild images came to mind.

However, I’ve noticed that my fingers don’t cooperate as much as they used to. This isn’t the beginning of arthritis . . . or dementia. It’s motor stubbornness, autodigititis – the odd accumulation of habits that I never realized I had acquired.

The worst offender is any word that starts with “par.” I am simply incapable of typing it without adding that damn “i” at the end.



Let’s parity.

Not up to pari.

There are other words that stump me too — not because I don’t know how to spell them, but because my fingers want to go somewhere else:

New Mexican always ends up as New Mexico

Michael is always, always Micheal

Does is always doesn’t first.

Apple is Appel (That’s my grandmother’s maiden name. I could use that as an excuse but I didn’t know her much and thought of her even less frequently. Perhaps it’s genetically encoded?)

Familiar and familial become family.

And forget words that end in “on” instead of “ion.” I’ve mistyped Allison more times than I’m willing to admit.

On it goes . . .

I don’t know why my fingers work this way, but they do.

Am I the only person with this affliction? Should I hie me to a yoga retreat to slow both mind and body?

Or . . .

Do you suffer from this too?

If so, what are your symptoms?

Perhaps . . .  together we can beat this insidious disease before it bates . . . oops . . . beats us.

26 thoughts on “Autodigititis

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    I always type "form" when I want to type "from." Also, any word with a "A" as the second letter runs the risk of having the A inadvertently cApitalized becuase my big fingers keep hitting the cAps lock.

  2. Jake Nantz

    I have something similar to the caps lock thing, except it’s just the shift key. I type slow enough that most of my mistakes are quickly backspaced, but I often, for No freakin’ Reason, will Capitalize words in Mid-sentence. Then when I go back, I have to fix them all On my own. It’s damn annoying sometimes.

  3. Wilfred Bereswill

    Me the Environmnetal (Environmental) Engineer. I have so many words I automatically spell wrong, I use the autocorrect function in Word to help my tiny brain. ANother thing is capitalizing the second letter along with the first because my left pinky can’t move fast enough.

    In high school we all had to come up with a semester class to pair up with Driver’s Ed. I took typing. There were three guys with twenty girls, so the odds were good. Got "As" in both Drivers Ed and Typing.

  4. Louise Ure

    I must not suffer greatly from this syndrome. The only stubborn word for me is "uniformed" as in "uniformed cops." It always comes out "uninformed." Freudian, perhaps?

  5. kit

    OMG! where to start on this one? I have to edit everything….I do know how to spell, but the letters are usually transposed in some way. Or I throw a space in and the ending letter of one word goes onto the next.Jsut think abou tit…it looks liek this.

  6. Sylvia

    Thank goodness for the computer and spellcheck… although I could do without Microsoft’s grammar check.

    My typing teacher in the 9th grade was Mrs. Parkennon and pretty much tainted my perfect 4.0 GPA for high school. Yes, a half-semester and I received a B+. That said, I’m flying fingers on the computer now as I type for live chat events – — – – – -zoom and wheee! But I probably swear more than most at the keyboard.

  7. Brett Battes

    First, the most useful class I ever took in Junior High (and it was during summer school) was typing. Hated it while I was in it, but am forever thankful that I did!

    Now for mistakes…I have a TON, as is probably evident in many, if not all, my Murderati posts. (Rob has even gone in and repaired some of my more blatant ones on occasion..thanks, Rob.) Like JD form and from…ugh. I also do the don’t instead of do or does, and the do instead of don’t. That goes for was and wasn’t, too. And now any time I write a word that starts with a q as in my main character Quinn, I almost always capitalize it first…Quick and Quiet are two of my favorites.

  8. Murderati

    My fingers are dyslexic.

    I took typing. Sophomore year. I despised it. Complete mental block. That was my only C in high school. On the upside, (or down, whichever you look at it) there was an incredibly cute Mormon boy in my class, who asked me on a date which I royally screwed up. (Think beer bottles, rolling down the movie theater aisle. I didn’t know Mormons didn’t drink…)

  9. kim

    I loved my typing class in high school – and since then have always typed faster than I could think. My mom once accused me simply madly hitting keys pretending to type, so certain was she that I could not truly type as fast as it seemed. That said – I tend to misspell the same words every time – words that if I was writing, I would never misspell. I don’t know why – can’t even point it to an Andy I once worked with or anything. The worst problem I have is (for example) when I mean to say "I didn’t" – invariably I’ll type "I did" (and vice versa) – they don’t even have to be contractions – but those are the usual suspects. It changes the entire meaning – and is likely very confusing. I also tend to hit send and *then* proof what I’ve written – following up with a "I meant to say….blah blah blah" – I think people I know usually expect two or three corrected emails before they act on anything I send. Instead of choosing to think this is a flaw – I choose to find it delightfully quirky….right?

  10. Pari

    Hey all,
    I’m in Philly a couple of days and the internet connection here is really wanky. But!!! I’m loving these comments. I’m just worried that I won’t have this connection for much longer. So know that I’m reading these and will try to check in when I can.

    As to the mistakes themselves — oh, boy. Yes. Second-letter capitalization is a biggie.

    I also think it’s interesting to note the words that come up all the time. I do type faster than I can think but that’s slowed considerably during the last decade <g>

  11. Allison Brennan

    LOL Pari . . . I’ve mistyped my name a time or two . . .

    I have two major problems with this. First, I sometimes forget the negative in a sentence. So "I do not like asparagus" becomes "I do like asparagus." I don’t even see it. I’ve done it in blogs where I state something and then support that statement with an argument for the opposite.

    Second, I’m lazy. I forget the "-ed" and the "-ing" in words, or worse, type the wrong one.

    And there are a few words that I misspell every single time that don’t get a red squiggly line. But I turned in a book at 4:47 a.m. this morning and am a bit brain dead, so can’t honestly remember what they are . . .

  12. red collar

    I often miss the word YOUR, and it shows up as YOU.

    OR becomes OF.

    WORD becomes WORK

    I had a typing class back in highschool and it was a bore, but so useful today. My mom can’t believe how fast I can type, she hears it over the telephone. I’m not sure what she’s most impressed with, the speed at which I type or the fact that I can talk and type at the same time.

    Nine fingers is the way to type. I feel for those who use two fingers and need to look at the keyboard. How could anyone drive and not look at the road?

    "uninformed cops…" I liked that one.

    Freudian slip or not, I don’t know. I think we visualise a specific word as a concept, and we write that word as a concept, not just a word. If it was just an accident , we’d have more flukes, make bigger mistakes with a lot more words. It’s case specific for me. I’m glad to hear that others have this condition. Some words just never come out right the first time.

    No matter where the disease lies, editing is the cure. *sigh*

  13. Karen from Mentor

    Hi Pari!
    I worked in an office in the eighties before we had pc’s and you had to either xxx out things or use white out to correct your TYPED errors.
    I had a customer who was in Walla Walla, Washington. I had to type shipping labels, sometimes 50 at a time to Walla Walla, Washington.

    It’s REALLY hard to stop after the second Walla……..

    Good post!
    Karen 🙂

  14. ptaichert

    I’m shocked you’re even coherent this afternoon.

    Thank you for keeping the conversation going. Hey . . . I type conversation as "conversion" and "constervasion." Yeah. Those quick fingers.

    I used to love that there was a place called "Walla Walla" in the first place. It just cracked me up.

    BTW: Did anyone ever have to work on a line editor and remote printer? I worked for the U of Maryland back in the mid 1980s and our printer was in the building next door. I’d type something and there’d be some kind of supercode in there where a dollar sign or other symbol would translate into a mathematical equation — so I’d never know what I’d end up with. It was infuriating!

    AND!!!!! Congrats to Louise Ure. THE FAULT TREE was just nominated for a Macavity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Gayle Carline

    Oddly, I couldn’t get "explosions" out of my fingers today. Took three tries, because it kept coming out "explotions." In my early 20’s I was a typist for a weekly newspaper (conservative, right-wing, let’s just say I was their closet editor). I was so used to typing what I saw, my fingers would jerk involuntarily every time I saw a word – on TV, a billboard, reading a book, you name it. Thought I was gonna have to go thru some 12-step program to stop.


  16. Wilfred Bereswill

    I can’t imagine what my manuscript would look like if I had to pound it out on a typewriter.

    There would be so many "Whiteout" stains and correction tape smudges that it would probably be unreadable. Thank God for the word processor.

    Dusty, if you have big fingers, stay away from the new Netbooks. I just bought Asus’ newest 10 in. model with a 92% keyboard. I REALLY miss that 8%.

  17. Anon

    For me, "know" tends to oddly be spelled "knokw". Sometimes, Microsoft’s auto-correct as you type is a blessing. It fixes all those known mistakes so my frustration doesn’t derail my train of thought (which happened all the time before I started making entries into that particular Word assist.)

  18. toni mcgee causey

    I’ve gotten more and more dyslexic at the keyboard lately. I’ve also done the automatic fill when typing words like "to" which becomes toni. Tonimorrow, for example, drives me nuts. Know becomes konw nine times out of ten, and…well, hell, let’s just say that I dearly love my copy editor to the point that I have put him in the acknowledgements of every book, he is that good.

  19. Christine

    I do that a lot with my own name! I type it so quickly that it comes out Christein or Crhistine rather than Christine. I wish I could blame that on a typing class, but it’s just me trying to type faster than I should. =)

  20. Graham

    I’m a systems engineer, so I type a lot for work, and my fingers have been trained to type certain words. If I type "conf" then, no matter what the word is, it comes out "config". "set" always comes out "setup", and (this goes back a few years) "auto" always comes out "autoexec".


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