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For the purpose of typing measurement a word is standardized to five characters or keystrokes, including spaces and punctuation. For example, "I run" counts as one word, and "rhinoceros" and "let's talk" both count as two.
Conversely, Characters per minute, CPM are WPM times five.
In 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.
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 speeds of 60 to 70 wpm. 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 has maintained 150 wpm for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. She has been clocked at a peak speed of 212 wpm. Blackburn, who failed her QWERTY typing class in high school, first encountered the Dvorak keyboard in 1938, quickly learned to achieve very high speeds, and occasionally toured giving speed-typing demonstrations during her secretarial career. She appeared on The David Letterman Show and felt that Letterman made a spectacle of her. Blackburn died in April 2008. However, the recent emergence of several competitive typing websites, has allowed several fast typists on computer keyboards to emerge along with new records,  Many of these records are essentially sprint speeds on short text selections lasting much less than one minute and were achieved on the QWERTY keyboard.
Using a personalized interface, physicist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, managed to type 15 wpm with a switch and adapted software created by Walt Woltosz. Due to a slowdown of his motor skills, his interface was upgraded with an infrared camera that detects eye blinks.
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 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. It is measured in "Keystrokes per hour," or KPH. Many jobs will require a certain KPH, often 8,000 or 10,000.
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.
Slide presentations tend to be closer to 100 wpm, 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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