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 typing speed or reading speed.

For the purpose of typing measurement, each word is standardized to be five characters or keystrokes long,[1] including spaces and punctuation. For example, the phrase "I run" counts as one word, but "rhinoceros" and "let's talk" both count as two.

Conversely, Characters per minute, or CPM, is equal to the WPM measurement times five.

Alphanumeric entry[edit]

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.[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]

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 speeds of 60 to 70 wpm.[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][8] 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.

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.


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%[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.[11] It is measured in "Keystrokes per hour," or KPH. Many jobs will require a certain KPH, often 8,000 or 10,000.[12]


The average human being hand-writes at 31 words per minute for memorized text and 22 words per minute while copying.[13]

Using stenography (shorthand) methods, this rate increases greatly. Handwriting speeds of up to 350 wpm 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.

The average adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute. While proofreading materials, people are able to read at 200 wpm on paper, and 180 wpm on a monitor.[15]

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.[16]

Slide presentations tend to be closer to 100-125 wpm for a comfortable pace,[17] auctioneers can speak at about 250 wpm,[citation needed] and the fastest speaking policy debaters speak from 350[18] to over 500 words per minute.[19][20] 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.[21] He has since been surpassed by Steve Woodmore, who achieved a rate of 637 wpm.[22]

Morse Code[edit]

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.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ahmed Sabbir Arif, Wolfgang Stuerzlinger Analysis of Text Entry Performance Metrics Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering York University
  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, USA: ACM. pp. 568–575. doi:10.1145/302979.303160. ISBN 0-201-48559-1. 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 – Big Site of Amazing Facts". Bigsiteofamazingfacts.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. ^ "Believe it or not ...". Deskstore.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  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. ^ for data entry of checks, please see the entry on Lockbox
  12. ^ For KPH required for data entry jobs, please see various job websites such as Monster.com
  13. ^ Brown, C. M. (1988). Human-computer interface design guidelines. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.
  14. ^ "New World'S Record For Shorthand Speed". New York Times. 1922-12-30. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  15. ^ Ziefle, M. (1998), Effects of display resolution on visual performance, Human Factors, 40(4), 555–568.
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ Wong, Linda (2014). Essential Study Skills. Cengage Learning. ISBN 1285965620. 
  18. ^ Chafets, Zev (2006-03-19). "Ministers of Debate". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Emily Demarest (2006-11-07). "What Ivy League? BU’s Debate team is among best in the country - Pipe Dream". Bupipedream.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  20. ^ "Falwell Inc.: Inside a Religious, Political, Educational, and Business Empire - Dirk Smillie - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  21. ^ "John Moschitta set record for fast talking... May 24 in History". Brainyhistory.com. 1988-05-24. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  22. ^ "World's Fastest Talker - Steve Woodmore". YouTube. 2011-02-05. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  23. ^ "Morse code page of Roger J. Wendell - WBŘJNR (WB0JNR)". Rogerwendell.com. Retrieved 2014-04-20.