Words per minute, commonly abbreviated WPM, is a measure of words processed in a minute, often used as a measurement of the speed of typing, reading or Morse code sending and receiving.
Since the length or duration of words is clearly variable, for the purpose of such measurement, the definition of each word is often standardized to be five characters or keystrokes long in English, including spaces and punctuation. For example, under such a method applied to plain English text the phrase "I run" counts as one word, but "rhinoceros" and "let's talk" would both count as two.
Brandon Raziano found that one study of average computer users in 1997, the average rate for transcription was 33 words per minute, and 19 words per minute for composition. In the same study, when the group was divided into "fast", "moderate", and "slow" groups, the average speeds were 40 wpm, 35 wpm, and 23 wpm, respectively.
With the onset of the era of desktop computers, fast typing skills became much more widespread.
An average professional typist types usually in speeds of 50 to 80 wpm, while some positions can require 80 to 95 (usually the minimum required for dispatch positions and other time-sensitive typing jobs), and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120 wpm. Two-finger typists, sometimes also referred to as "hunt and peck" typists, commonly reach sustained speeds of about 37 wpm for memorized text and 27 wpm when copying text, but in bursts may be able to reach much higher speeds. From the 1920s through the 1970s, typing speed (along with shorthand speed) was an important secretarial qualification and typing contests were popular and often publicized by typewriter companies as promotional tools.
The fastest typing speed on an alphanumeric keyboard, 216 words in one minute, was achieved by Stella Pajunas in 1946 on an IBM electric. As of 2005[update], writer Barbara Blackburn was the fastest alphanumerical English language typist in the world, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, she maintained 150 wpm for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. Her top speed was 212 wpm.
Main article: Stenotype
Stenotype keyboards enable the trained user to input text as fast as 225 wpm or faster at very high accuracy for an extended period of time, which is sufficient for real-time activities such as court reporting or closed captioning. While dropout rates are very high—in some cases, only 10% or even less graduate—stenotype students are usually able to reach speeds of 100–120 wpm within six months, which is faster than most alphanumeric typists. Guinness World Records gives 360 wpm with 97.23% accuracy as the highest achieved speed using a stenotype.
The numeric entry or 10 key speed is a measure of one's ability to manipulate the numeric keypad found on most modern separate computer keyboards. It is used to measure speed for jobs such as data entry of number information on items such as remittance advice, bills, or checks, as deposited to lockboxes. It is measured in "Keystrokes per hour," or KPH. Many jobs require a certain KPH, often 8,000 or 10,000.
For an adult population (age range 18–64) the average speed of copying is 68 letters per minute (approximately 13 wpm), with the range from a minimum of 26 to a maximum of 113 letters per minute (approximately 5 to 20 wpm).
A study of police interview records showed that the highest speed fell in the range 120–155 characters per minute, the highest possible limit being 190 characters per minute.
According to various studies the speed of handwriting of 3–7 graders varies from 25 to 94 letters per minute.
Using stenography (shorthand) methods, this rate increases greatly. Handwriting speeds up to 350 words per minute have been achieved in shorthand competitions.
Reading and comprehension
Words per minute is a common metric for assessing reading speed and is often used in the context of remedial skills evaluation, as well as in the context of speed reading, where it is a controversial measure of reading performance.
A word in this context is the same as in the context of speech.
Research done in 2012 measured the speed at which subjects read a text aloud, and found the average speed across 17 different languages to be 184±29 WPM or 863±234 CPM. However, for the languages that use the Latin or Cyrillic alphabets, the number of WPM varied, as low as 161±18 for Finnish and as high as 228±30 for English. The reason for this is different word structures in each language (longer words in such languages as Finnish and shorter words in English). However, the number of characters per minute tends to be around 1000 for all the tested languages. For the tested Asian languages that use particular writing systems (Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese) these numbers are lower.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that reading—defined here as capturing and decoding all the words on every page—faster than 900 wpm is not feasible given the limits set by the anatomy of the eye.
While proofreading materials, people are able to read English at 200 WPM on paper, and 180 WPM on a monitor. [Those numbers from Ziefle, 1998, are for studies that used monitors prior to 1992. See Noyes & Garland 2008 for a modern tech view of equivalence.]
Speech and listening
Audiobooks are recommended to be 150–160 words per minute, which is the range that people comfortably hear and vocalize words.
Slide presentations tend to be closer to 100–125 wpm for a comfortable pace,auctioneers can speak at about 250 wpm, and the fastest speaking policy debaters speak from 350 to over 500 words per minute. Internet speech calculators show that various things influence words per minute including nervousness.
John Moschitta, Jr., was listed in Guinness World Records, for a time, as the world's fastest speaker, being able to talk at 586 wpm. He has since been surpassed by Steve Woodmore, who achieved a rate of 637 wpm.
Morse code uses variable length sequences of short and long duration signals (dots and dashes) to represent source information e.g. sequences for the letter "K" and numeral "2" are respectively (▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄) and (▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄). This variability complicates the measurement of Morse code speed rated in words per minute.
It is standard practice to use two different such standard words to measure Morse code speeds in words per minute. The standard words are: "PARIS" and "CODEX". In Morse code "PARIS" has 50 dot durations, while "CODEX" has 60.
Morse is still widely used by amateur radio operators (hams). Experienced hams routinely send Morse at 20 words per minute, using manually operated hand telegraph keys ; enthusiasts such as members of The CW Operators' Club routinely send and receive Morse code at speeds up to 60 wpm. Twenty words per minute (20 wpm) represents the rough upper limit for Morse operators attempting to write down Morse code received by ear using paper and pencil. Many skilled Morse code operators can receive Morse code by ear mentally without writing down the information at speeds up to 70 wpm. To write down the Morse code information manually at speeds higher than 20 wpm it is usual for the operators to use a typewriter or computer keyboard to enable higher speed copying.
The fastest Morse code operator was Theodore Roosevelt McElroy copying at 75.6 wpm using a typewriter at the 1939 world championship.
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- Chart – A visual representation of various activities and the corresponding speeds in words-per-minute
- Typing Speed Test - Histogram of results in WPM
- WebTEM - A Web application to record words per minute and other text entry performance metrics
You have to make a great script. No video can work without it.
But how long should it be? Most people start with the question: how many words can I get in a 90 second video script?
That’s the wrong question to ask. Instead: what is the final goal of this project? What is the tone? What do I want for my readers?
Before we start, we have to realize a few things:
- The goal of any script is comprehension…
- We do everything from the client’s point of view.
- Time is a tool to “paint” with.
- Most of the time people try and cram too much in – and that means nobody remembers anything.
So, here are 3 rules that will make everything easy as we work toward using the voice over to create great videos.
Please note that all of this is keyed towards the North American market.
Guideline #1: Optimize Information Density.
Have you ever been interested in a video, clicked it on and thought “ugh,” how hard? That’s probably because you got confused.
There was too much complexity, which our brains are wired to avoid.
You probably encountered too much information density.
New ideas, slamming into you faster than you can process them. On the other hand, you’ve watched videos where you get the gist of the thing instantly.
The basic idea: slow down for the new ideas, go fast for the familiar parts. It’s generally better to be a little on the slow side than too fast. Comprehension is everything and we don’t want to lose our audience. By simply looking at each section of the video and saying “is this hard or easy,” you can go a long way towards a better video.
Guideline #2: Pay Attention To Natural Speech Rates
Then, slow it down.
According to the national center for voice and speech, the normal rate of speech in North America is about 150 words per minute.
This is “conversational” speech, where people have some shared context, some shared history and familiarity.
When your introducing new material, it takes a minute for your brain to catch up. The general rule: the more dynamic the idea, the slower it has to go.
Your visuals should carry some weight, so we want to be 135 words per minute as a starting point. We can absolutely go up – or down – from there.
For a video:
Slow: 110 words per minute
Normal: 135 words per minute
Fast 160 words per minute.
To estimate the word count, simply take the approximate script length in minutes and multiply.
Special note: :30 second videos will need fewer words than longer ones because there is some absolute “warm up period,” to gain comprehension.
Guideline #3: Pay Attention To Style
There are times where a dramatic pause will gain more comprehension than more talking. By creating tension you can drive a point home.
By just going straight “by the numbers” or “with what the word count allows,” we miss opportunities to to make an impact by using time as a tool.
We felt so strongly about this that we changed our pricing structure from the traditional “per second” delivery to “design + time” model in order to lessen the impact of “going over.”
A second or two is all it takes to let something “sink in,” and that can make a difference between a great video and an also-ran.
Put It All Together: Section By Section
Part of the editing process includes VO instructions.
When we work with our voice talent we go by the rule that you can’t be too descriptive.
You generally take a script, identify key parts, and write delivery instructions in a way that makes sense. We give notes on each section regarding rate of speech and other factors so that the talent can understand what they are doing.
Use time as a tool to paint with, make sure the pace and tone work. Keep the density at the right level.
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