I see the terms “type” and “write” used to describe putting text into a computer using a keyboard. What is the difference between them?


  • “typing a document”
  • “typing on a typewriter”
  • “writing source code”

I have these thoughts:

  • Typing is typesetting, so its point is to lay some text on a page for visual presentation. That includes typing on a typewriter and typing in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor like MS Word, where the text layout is shown during editing.

  • The point of writing is to input some text with possibly undefined visual aspect. That includes writing program source code and other plain text which may display differently in different cases (for example according to the user's font settings).

According to these thoughts, when I am creating this question, I am writing the text in Markdown because it is typeset only after someone opens it locally on the reader's device.

BTW, an error at typing is called “typo”; likewise, if I am right, what is an error at writing called?

  • 2
    Typing is one of those words that have survived from older technology (the typewriter keyboard), in the same way as we speak of 'dialling' a phone number. Feb 26 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


Typing generally refers to the physical action of pressing keys (or by analogy, to typing on a virtual keypad on a touch screen). Hence "typing a document" means inputting it by typing on a keyboard (real or virtual), rather than using speech recognition, handwriting recognition, or other input methods.

Writing here refers to composing text: that is, deciding what words to use and in what order, and by analogy it also refers to creating source code, music, etc. It doesn't really matter how the words get into the browser, notepad app, word processor, etc. (Writing has multiple meanings, and can also refer to the physical process of making letter shapes with pen, pencil, stylus, scriber, knife-point, etc, or to the process of making shapes in the air that leave no physical trace).

If you're specifically interested in formatting or typesetting you would normally refer to that more explicitly, e.g. formatting a document, laying out a document. Typing does not mean typesetting.


Typing describes the physical action of pressing keys to input text. More recently, it has also expanded to mean pressing virtual buttons to input text, such as on a touchscreen. Writing can mean either the physical act of recording text with a pen/pencil/etc. or it can mean the mental act of composing language.

There are many cases where they can be used interchangeably, but there are some instances where only one word would make sense. Here are some examples of each of those cases:

Either Type/Write

In these examples, either to type or to write can be used. Using to type will give a slight emphasis to the motion of the fingers but that emphasis is not strong.

  • I am typing/writing a text to my sister.

  • Please wait a moment, I'm typing/writing a reply to an important email.

  • She was typing/writing her upcoming presentation, when I knocked on her door.

Type preferred

Here are examples of sentences where it would make more sense to use to type since the focus really should be on either the physical action of pressing the keys or on the fact that the content has already been composed.

  • I prefer typing on a mechanical keyboard.

  • My assistant types while I dictate the email's contents.

  • He has his rough draft already written, he just needs to type it.

  • I'm impressed that you can type your class notes while watching a movie!

Write only

In these examples, to write is preferred because the focus is on the process of composing the ideas into text.

  • I am writing a book about learning English.

  • They have written guidelines for companies to follow.

  • My friend wrote a nice card for my birthday.

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