Words per minute
Words per minute, commonly abbreviated WPM, is a measure of words processed in a minute, often used as a measurement of typing speed or reading speed.
For the purpose of typing measurement, each word is standardized to be five characters or keystrokes long in English, including spaces and punctuation. For example, the phrase "I run" counts as one word, but "rhinoceros" and "let's talk" both count as two.
As an average English word consists of about 4–5 letters, characters per minute (CPMn), a measure of characters processed in a minute, is normally 4 or 5 times larger than WPM, so that 20 WPM are roughly equal to 80–100 CPM (not including spaces, which must add 20 to that).
Brandon Raziano found that one study of average computer users in 1998, 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, especially among men.
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. Current online records of sprint speeds on short text selections are 290 wpm, achieved by Guilherme Sandrini, on typingzone.com, and 256 wpm (a record caught on video), achieved by Sean Wrona, on TypeRacer. Wrona also maintained 174 wpm on a 50-minute test taken on hi-games.net.
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, with the range from a minimum of 26 to a maximum of 113 letters per minute.
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.
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 showed that the average reading speed in 17 different languages is 184±29 WPM or 863±234 CPM. However, for the languages that use the Latin or Cyrillic alphabets, the number of WPM varies, 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
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.
It is common to hear 20 wpm among experienced ham radio operators sending Morse code using a one-hand "key". There are several CW (continuous wave) organizations that routinely send at 60 wpm. The fastest CW operator was Ted McElroy copying at 75.6 wpm at the 1939 world championship.
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- WebTEM - A Web application to record words per minute and other text entry performance metrics
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