Is there some sort of service that will tell you how long it will take to read a certain number of words?
September 10, 2009 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Giving a speech filter: IS there any online service or program that you can put in a block of text and it will tell approximately you how long it'll take to read it out loud?

So I'm giving a speech next week that's got to be five minutes long. I'm usually better at writing these things out ahead of time. And I have no problem with the public speaking. I just want to know how many words I should shoot for with five minutes.

I realize I could just record myself and then trim but I really don't want to put in that much effort. It's not a super important speech. Just one that's supposed to go a pretty set time.

So is there any online service that estimates these things? I realize I could always put it in a speech synthesizer and time it but I'm hoping there's something little more cut and paste.

Does this exist?
posted by rileyray3000 to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if such a thing exists on line, but it definitely exists in general. This is a feature of the newsroom management software used in TV news.
posted by Jahaza at 9:57 AM on September 10, 2009

If you're listening to someone speaking like in a books-on-tape situation, you're hearing about 150 words per minute. If you're speaking with inflection, slowing up and slowing down, you could speak anywhere between 120-150 wpm. Assume that a five minute speech should be about 500-750 words and you'll be fine. This is about 2-3 manuscript (types, double spaced) pages.
posted by jessamyn at 9:58 AM on September 10, 2009

I realize I could just record myself and then trim but I really don't want to put in that much effort.

Trust me, this is really the only way to do it. Even if the software exists, it would have to factor in how quickly you speak.
posted by philip-random at 10:00 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know of a program that does what you say, but I do sometimes get paid to write speeches. The general rule of thumb, as Jessamyn said, is 120 words per minute. You may speak faster than that, but that's a good floor. So you'll want somewhere between 600 and 840 words. Aim for 700. That should put you right in the middle, so you'll have some room either way.
posted by dortmunder at 10:03 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jessamyn's right on, at least from my personal experience.

Speaking anecdotally, as someone who does a lot of public speaking, I know that it takes me somewhere between 2 and 2.5 minutes to read a page of double-spaced type. So if I had your assignment, I would aim for my typed script to run 2 to 2.5 pages.
posted by AngerBoy at 10:25 AM on September 10, 2009

Wolfram Alpha handles stuff like this well -- a few queries identifies ~800 words as the target to shoot for.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2009

Another rule of thumb: it takes about 2 minutes to read a single page of fairly standard double-spaced 12-point text.
posted by Tallguy at 10:38 AM on September 10, 2009

Set a five-minute timer and start reading a long text [maybe somebody's inaugural address or something] out loud in the manner in which you expect to speak. When the timer goes off, you can copy and paste the stuff you've read into your word processor and word count will give you your target.
posted by chazlarson at 10:59 AM on September 10, 2009

If you have access to a Mac, you could run the text through the speech synthesis program and time it. For example, if your speech was in a text file called speech.txt, run the following command from the Terminal:

time say -f speech.txt

More details on the use of the say command here
posted by Cogito at 12:10 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing everyone else. I generally do about 200wpm and no-one can understand what I'm saying because I'm speaking too fast - 700 words in 5 minutes sounds like a good target.
posted by robself at 12:34 PM on September 10, 2009

We use iNews where I work. If you want, you can send me the text and I will plug it in and tell you the result.
posted by spec80 at 12:36 PM on September 10, 2009

In OS X, paste the text into TextEdit, select the text, and choose Services > Speech > Start Speaking Text from the TextEdit menu.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:51 PM on September 10, 2009

Seconding AngerBoy and TallGuy: around 2-2.5 minutes for a page of double-spaced text. (Times New Roman, 1" margins)
posted by mittenedsex at 1:15 PM on September 10, 2009

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