Editor at Large

How Do You Measure Up?

I was going to do a booklist entry for today, but this info is just too cool to leave for next week. Consider it a reading assignment of another kind.

While looking up average proofreading speeds for a project I’m doing, I came upon this article.

Everything you ever wanted to know about human interaction speeds–reading, typing, speech comprehension, and more–is all in one place, with citations from the studies used to generate the findings. The usual disclaimers apply since I found it on the web and all, but the information is still really good:

The facts (see here for complete references):


The average adult reading speed for English prose text in the United States seems to be around 250 to 300 words per minute.


People comfortably can hear words that are spoken at from 150 to 160 words per minute.


People tend to dictate to computers at about 105 words per minute.


The fastest typists can enter well over 150 words per minute. … However, when actual typing speeds are collected for people that use computers, they are much slower. In one study the typing rates for simple transcription averaged only 33 words per minute, and for composition the average was only 19 words per minute.


On average, people write (handprint) at about 31 words per minute for memorized text, and about 22 words per minute when copying
text (Brown, 1988). It is interesting that the original Remington
typewriter was sold with the promise that it would enable users to
enter information “twice as fast as they could write.”

Article published August 2000–then again, how much do these things really change?

2 replies on “How Do You Measure Up?”

Annie Glimmerglasssays:

I wonder why computer typists are so much slower than ones on….what? Remington Selectrics? manual typewriters? I would think computer typists would be a lot faster. I know I am. I also think people in their 20’s and younger far outspeed us (ooh, I like that…outspeed) in typing, and of course in texting on the cell phone.

I don’t think it’s talking about Selectrics and manual typewriters; the contrast is between speeds measured under typing-test conditions and typing speeds measured in what I take for “real life,” with mouse clicks and e-mail distractions and whatever else might occur.

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