Background: Orthographic-motor integration refers to the way in which orthographic knowledge is integrated with fine-motor demands of handwriting. A strong relationship has shown to exist between orthographic-motor integration and students' ability to produce creative and well-structured written text (De La Paz & Graham, 1995). This relationship is thought to be due to the cognitive load resulting from lack of automaticity in orthographic-motor integration so that writers do not have sufficient resources to accomplish the more demanding aspects of writing. Interventions to improve children's orthographic-motor integration result in improved written text (Jones & Christensen, 1999).

Aim: This study first extended findings related to handwritten text to the relationship between typing and the length and quality of computer-based written text. Second, it examined the efficacy of an intervention to develop proficiency in typing skills on the length and quality of students' written language.

Sample: Participants in the first study were 276 Grade 8 and 9 students. In the second study 35 students in Grades 8 and 9 who exhibited very low levels of proficiency in typing were the participants.

Methods: In Study 1, orthographic-motor integration related to typing as well as handwriting was assessed for all students. They were asked to complete a piece of handwritten and computer-based text. Students in the intervention study completed the same measures as Study 1, at pre- and post-test. During the intervention half the students completed a daily typed journal and half completed a program designed to facilitate their typing skills.

Results: There was a significant relationship between orthographic-motor integration — handwriting and the length and quality of handwritten text, and a stronger relationship between orthographic-motor integration — typing and length and quality of computer-based text. Both intervention groups in the second study showed significant differences in writing skills from pre- to post-test. However, the typing skills group showed significantly better scores on typing and quality of typewritten text than the journal group at post-test. The impact of the intervention was specific to typewritten text. There was no difference in length or quality of handwritten text.

Conclusion: It is suggested that developing proficiency in orthographic-motor integration related to typing allows writers to employ their cognitive resources more flexibly when working on a computer, so that they can devote attention to higher-order processes involved in ideation, syntactic and semantic monitoring and pragmatic awareness.