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Words per minute, commonly abbreviated wpm, is a measure of input or output speed and in psychology can be related to cognitive processing speed and perceptual speed.

For the purposes of WPM measurement a word is standardized to five characters or keystrokes. So, "eliot" counts as one word, but "rhinoceros" counts as two. "Let's talk" would also be considered as two words, because the space key counts as a keystroke.

The benefits of a standardized measurement of input speed are that it enables comparison across language and hardware boundaries. The speed of an Afrikaans-speaking operator in Cape Town can be compared with a French French-speaking operator in Paris.

Alphanumeric entry

In one study of average computer users, the average rate for transcription was 33 words per minute, and only 19 words per minute for composition.[1] 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. Two-finger typists, sometimes also referred to as "Hunt-and-Peck" typists, can reach speeds of about 37 wpm for memorized text, and 27 wpm when copying text.[2]

An average typist reaches 50 to 70 wpm, while some positions can require 80 to 95 (usually the minimum required for dispatch positions and other typing jobs), and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120.

A less common form of finding the speed of a typist, the initialism CPM is used to identify the number of characters typed per minute. This is a common measurement for typing programs, or typing tutors, as it can give a more accurate measure of a person's typing speed without having to type for a prolonged period of time. Also used occasionally for associating the speed of a reader with the amount they have read.

Numeric entry

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 bills and checks. It is measured in 'Keystrokes per hour', or KPH.


People handwrite at about 31 words per minute for memorized text, and 22 words per minute while copying.[2]

Using stenography methods, handwriting speed goes above 100 wpm up to 250 wpm.

Reading and comprehension

Words per minute is a common metric for assessing reading speed. It is often used in the context of remedial skills evaluation. It is also used 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 American adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute, and with use of Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), the speeds can quickly exceed 400wpm and reach 800wpm after an hour of practice.[3]

While proofreading materials, people are able to read at 200wpm on paper, and 180wpm on a monitor.[4]

Comprehension speeds have been assessed at 400 wpm for full comprehension, and research has shown that speed reading at 600 wpm can achieve about 70% comprehension, and 50% comprehension at 1000 wpm. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Speech and listening

Audio books are recommended to be recorded at 150–160 words per minute, which is the range that people comfortably hear words.[5]

Slide presentations tend to be closer to 100 wpm, while conversations are maintained at around 200 wpm.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Although research by Ronald Carver has demonstrated that adults can listen with full comprehension at 300 wpm, even auctioneers can only speak at about 250 wpm. Another study demonstrated that full comprehension is only maintained in people at 210 wpm when speech is compressed.[6]


  1. Karat, C.M., Halverson, C., Horn, D. and Karat, J. (1999), Patterns of entry and correction in large vocabulary continuous speech recognition systems, CHI 99 Conference Proceedings, 568–575.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Brown, C. M. (1988). Human-computer interface design guidelines. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "multiple" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Bailey, R.W. and Bailey, L.M. (1999), Reading speeds using RSVP, User Interface Update - 1999.
  4. Ziefle, M. (1998), Effects of display resolution on visual performance, Human Factors, 40(4), 555-568.
  5. 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
  6. Omoigui, N., He, L., Gupta A., Grudin, J. and Sanocki, E. (1999), Time-compression: Systems concerns, usage, and benefits, CHI 99 Conference Proceedings, 136–143.

See also

External links

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