Friday, February 20, 2009

QWERTY keyboard: A device lefties should be thankful for

Despite four of the last seven US Presidents being left-handed, the daily inconveniences lefties must suffer--the side of the palm covered in graphite after pencil use, the awkwardness in trying to write in a bounded notebook of any kind, the difficulty in playing pickup games of baseball (and no, we don't just want to be DHs) or golf, the inherent coordination disadvantage of a routine handshake--continue to go unattended to by a right-handed supermajority. In solidarity I preach that while lefties bleed, a right-handed world takes no heed.

Rather than launch into endless special pleading, however, allow me a moment to be thankful for one item of daily use that unapologetically favors the southpaw: the QWERTY keyboard. While working on a recent post, I took a swig of tea with my right while typing the word "average" entirely with my left.

In English, there are more words that are entirely the domain of the left than of the right because the left hand's territory claims greater frequency of letter use than the right hand's does. According to a letter frequency distribution calculated by mathematician Robert Edward Lewand, 54.02% of keystrokes are made by the left hand to the 45.98% made by the right*.

How might the right-handed majority realize greater parity in keystrokes? By learning to use the right index finger to reach the letter B, instead of the left index finger as is traditionally taught. There is little reason to prefer the left hand here, as the key is positioned an equal distance between the index fingers' resting positions on F and J. Adopting this change nearly cuts the disparity in half, with the left hand now accounting for only 52.64% of keystrokes, to the right hand's 47.36%.

* With the assumption that the summation of all punctuation--which is, with the exception of the exclamation mark, entirely a function of the right hand--falls equidistantly between the letter T and the letter A in frequency as the third most common keystroke, and also with a neutral designation for the space bar, which can be accessed by either hand.

5 comments:

Lover of Wisdom said...

I'm a southpaw too; you could add to your list that it's harder to get a decent left-handed guitar.

Audacious Epigone said...

LoW,

Very true. I learned with a right-handed guitar, which is my excuse as to why I pick well but strum poorly (in reality, it's probably more my general lack of musical talent that makes memorization my only route to decency).

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