Words per minute

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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,[1] 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.

Alphanumeric entry[edit]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[3] 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.[5][6][7] As of 2005, 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 295 wpm achieved by Kathy Chiang on TypeRacer.com. For longer passages, Sean Wrona holds the record with 174 wpm on a 50-minute test taken on hi-games.net.[8]


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%[9] 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[10] gives 360 wpm with 97.23% accuracy as the highest achieved speed using a stenotype.

Numeric entry[edit]

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).[11]

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.[12]

According to various studies the speed of handwriting of 3–7 graders varies from 25 to 94 letters per minute.[13]

Using stenography (shorthand) methods, this rate increases greatly. Handwriting speeds up to 350 words per minute have been achieved in shorthand competitions.[14]

Reading and comprehension[edit]

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[15] 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.[16]

While proofreading materials, people are able to read English at 200 WPM on paper, and 180 WPM on a monitor.[17] [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[edit]

Audiobooks are recommended to be 150–160 words per minute, which is the range that people comfortably hear and vocalize words.[18]

Slide presentations tend to be closer to 100–125 wpm for a comfortable pace,[19] auctioneers can speak at about 250 wpm,[citation needed] and the fastest speaking policy debaters speak from 350[20] to over 500 words per minute.[21] Internet speech calculators show that various things influence words per minute including nervousness.[citation needed]

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.[22] He has since been surpassed by Steve Woodmore, who achieved a rate of 637 wpm.[23]

Morse code[edit]

Morse code uses variable length sequences of short and long duration signals (dots and dashes) to represent source information[24] 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 (20wpm) 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.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ahmed Sabbir Arif and Wolfgang Stuerzlinger. 2009.Analysis of Text Entry Performance Metrics. In Proceedings of the IEEE Toronto International Conference–Science and Technology for Humanity (TIC-STH '09). IEEE, Washington, DC, US, 100-105.
  2. ^ Karat CM, Halverson C, Horn D, Karat J (1999). "Patterns of entry and correction in large vocabulary continuous speech recognition systems". Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '99). New York, NY, US: ACM. pp. 568–575. ISBN 0-201-48559-1. doi:10.1145/302979.303160. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  3. ^ a b Brown, CM (1988). Human-computer interface design guidelines. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. 
  4. ^ Ayres, Robert U; Martinás, Katalin (2005), "120 wpm for very skilled typist", On the Reappraisal of Microeconomics: Economic Growth and Change in a Material World, Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing, p. 41, ISBN 1-84542-272-4, retrieved 22 November 2010 
  5. ^ 2007-09-12 (2007-09-12). "History of Typewriters – superbeefy.com". superbeefy.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  6. ^ "World Records in Typing". Owled.com. 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  7. ^ "IBM Archives: Typing posture". 03.ibm.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  8. ^ Sean Wrona (25 December 2011). "174 wpm on hi-games.net 50 minute test" – via YouTube. 
  9. ^ "Stenotype Institute of Jacksonville Jacksonville - Review & Ranking". American-school-search.com. 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  10. ^ "Fastest realtime court reporter (stenotype writing)". Guinnessworldrecords.com. 2004-07-30. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  11. ^ Bledsoe Jr., Dave (2011). "Handwriting Speed in an Adult Population". Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. 27 (22): 10. 
  12. ^ Hardcastle, R. A.; Matthews, C. J. (January 1991). "Speed of writing". Journal of the Forensic Science Society. 31 (1): 21–29. doi:10.1016/s0015-7368(91)73114-9. 
  13. ^ Zaviani, Jenny; Wallen, Margaret (2006). "The Development of Graphomotor Skills". In Henderson, Anne; Pehoski, Charlane. Hand Function in the Child: Foundations for Remediation (2nd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby. p. 228. 
  14. ^ "New World'S Record For Shorthand Speed". New York Times. 1922-12-30. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  15. ^ Trauzettel-Klosinski, Susanne; Dietz, Klaus (August 2012). "Standardized Assessment of Reading Performance: The New International Reading Speed Texts IReST". Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 53 (9). 
  16. ^ Bremer, Rod. The Manual: A Guide to the Ultimate Study Method (2 ed.). Fons Sapientiae Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9934964-0-0. 
  17. ^ Ziefle, M (December 1998). "Effects of display resolution on visual performance.". Human factors. 40 (4): 554–68. PMID 9974229. doi:10.1518/001872098779649355. 
  18. ^ Williams, J. R. (1998). Guidelines for the use of multimedia in instruction, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 42nd Annual Meeting, 1447–1451
  19. ^ Wong, Linda (2014). Essential Study Skills. Cengage Learning. ISBN 1285965620. 
  20. ^ Chafets, Zev (2006-03-19). "Ministers of Debate". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ Falwell Inc.: Inside a Religious, Political, Educational, and Business Empire - Dirk Smillie - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  22. ^ "John Moschitta set record for fast talking... May 24 in History". Brainyhistory.com. 1988-05-24. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  23. ^ "World's Fastest Talker - Steve Woodmore". YouTube. 2011-02-05. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  24. ^ International Telecomunications Union, ITU. "International Morse Code Recommendation" (PDF). ITU. 
  25. ^ "Morse code page of Roger J. Wendell - WBŘJNR (WB0JNR)". Rogerwendell.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 

External links[edit]

  • 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[1]