Words to Time Conversion
Words to Time Conversion
How many words are in the script?
What is your reading speed (words per minute)?
Estimated Run Time of the Final Audio
Hours and Minutes
About this Conversion Tool
This tool helps voice actors to compare their speaking rate to the script that is associated with the job that they are applying for, or are completing.
Understanding how many words per minute you speak will help you estimate how long it will take you to read the script, which in turn helps inform how long it will take you to complete the job and therefore what might be a fair price to command for the work.
Determining the Number of Words in Your Script
When using this conversion tool, first determine the number of words in the script. If the number of words isn’t marked, you can easily determine how many words are contained by using the shortcut in your word processing software.
For instance, for those using Google Docs, you can find out the number of words in your document by clicking on Tools>Word Count. Those using Microsoft Word will see the word count on the status bar. If the word count is missing, simply click the status bar and then ‘Word Count.’
Determining Your Speed of Speech
Most people don’t know how many words they speak per minute, and this can be troublesome for voice actors who often use it as a measure for how they quote on jobs.
In order to assess how fast you are delivering your voice acting performance, you have a few options.
The first is easy - and you may even want to use your sample script! All you have to do is start a timer and begin delivering the lines. By the time a minute is up, you can see how far you’ve gone in your script. If you haven’t gotten through the whole piece, you can use your word processing software to determine how many words were in the passage that you read in one minute.
Number of words in the passage = number of words spoken per minute.
The second way to determine the number of words you are speaking per minute, is simply to record yourself as you deliver a performance or speak conversationally about a topic. Once you’ve reached a minute, stop recording, then listen back on what you’ve gathered and count up the number of words that you spoke.
Sample One-Minute Scripts
It was a windy day in Wisconsin. At 106 Chesshire Lane, the branches of the stoic maple tree, which was planted firmly in the Johnson’s front yard, swayed to and fro, caught in the icy breeze. Little Tommy Johnson watched them from his bedroom window. He was transfixed by the way the little tufts of snow shook loose and then spiraled in the air, almost weightlessly, before they made their descent into the snowbank below. Despite the cold, he wished he was outside too. There was nothing that he loved more than the feeling of being bundled up in warm winter outerwear. The kind that swished as your legs moved. He loved the sound of the snow crunching and squeaking under his boots. But alas, Tommy was sick, according to the thermometer that hung out of his mouth, registering at 102 degrees. Why had Mabel Merryweather sneezed on him? Covering your mouth is just good manners.
Word Count: 156 Words
Faster and faster and faster they went. Old Man Ronny, the purebred son of Triple Crown winner, Tom the Butcher, sped across the field, with little Susie Sutherland, just 12 years old holding tight to his reins. His hooves kicked up divots of mud and clover. His breath moved in and out in great big puffs, and as he ran, Old Man Ronny seemed to take flight.
On the outskirts of the clover-rich patch, Susie’s father’s eyes never wavered from his daughter’s bobbing figure. He held a stopwatch up in his right hand, finger up at the ready to click down upon the top of it and catch the final time.
When Old Man Ronny passed the flagpost at just under 56 seconds, he knew that they had a champion on their hands… and Susie was just the right weight to compete with the other jockeys in the circuit. The trick would be convincing them to let her enter. Even though she had been raised with horses, and riding them before she could walk, he knew that the committee wouldn’t approve of her age.
Word Count: 185 Words
They called him Orange Julius. Not just because of his orange tabby coloring, but also because he carried the demeanor of a Roman Emperor, like Julius Caesar. Every step that Orange Julius took was weighted and full of purpose. Each jump carefully measured, and every pounce was merciless, whether the intended target was a field mouse, or Mr. Taylor’s sock.
There was no doubt in the family’s mind that if their cat could see himself in a mirror, he would be pleased with what he saw. Not because he was particularly fit, or agile, but because his opinion was so solidly formed around the idea of his own greatness.
Even when he was a kitten, Orange Julius’s tiny paws stomped about the house - and despite his size - he was fearless. On one occasion, Mrs. Taylor came home to find him perched atop the narrow rod that held up the living room curtains. The curtains themselves had not fared well.
Word Count: 159 Words
Using the Numbers in the Conversion Tool
Now that you know how fast you speak, as well as how many words are in the script you’re reading, you simply need to plug in both numbers into their appropriate spot in the conversion tool. The amount of time it will take you to complete the job will automatically adjust to show the total time!
How Many Words Per Minute Should You Speak?
When it comes to the number of words each of us speaks per minute, the flow is as individual as you are.
There are many things to take into account, such as what the script requires. For instance, is the character you’re playing speaking in a laid back drawl - or are you an announcer reading a disclaimer in a 15-second radio spot? The number of words you speak per minute may vary wildly with only this small stipulation!
However, character notes and context aside, we all have our own natural comfort level when it comes to reading a script, as well as talking at a natural pace.
Just to give you context, Steve Woodmore - a British electronics salesman and comedian once shattered the world record (in the Guinness Book of World Records) for fastest speech. He can articulate 637 words per minute, which is touted as four times as fast as the average human. Meaning most of us speak at 159 words per minute at best.
Even faster still, is Sean Shannon, a Canadian, who once recited Hamlet's soliloquy “To be or not to be,” which is 260 words in just 23.8 seconds. This means he read the whole piece at a rate of 655 words per minute.
In contrast, the sloth characters in the Oscar-winning Disney Film Zootopia took an excruciatingly long time to speak a single sentence. So much so, that they became a sort of comic relief. Their long delays, which were still less than ten seconds in between words, caused an awkwardness that could only be endured through laughter.
A Natural Rate of Speech in North America
There are a number of resources that cite the average rate of speech for English speakers in North America. For instance, the National Center for Voice and Speech states that the average rate of conversational talk in the US is around 150 words per minute (wpm).
This means that when you come across a script with a ‘conversational voice’ listed, you might expect that the rate of speech will fall somewhat in line with this guideline.
It’s important to note that as part of a natural pattern, speech does ebb and flow. Sometimes we may talk faster, for instance, when we’re excited or there is an emergency. Whereas other times we may slow down, such as when we’re whispering or speaking to a child.
Because of these differences, it is always helpful to try out your reading rate (perhaps using this conversion tool!) with different styles of reads to discover how your voice may behave differently under different demands.
Sometimes you may want to adjust your rate of speech, but other times you may wish to revise your quote once you discover how many words you’re speaking per minute.
Reading Rate Versus Speaking Rate
Even though the average reading rate tends to be faster than speech (e.g. 200 - 300 words per minute), when you’re narrating a book, it still makes sense to maintain a more comfortable level of reading out loud. For instance, around 160 words per minute is more than sufficient and like any conversational tone, may increase or decrease depending on the passage.
The Influence of Language on Number of Words per Minute
When it comes to thinking about how many words per minute you can speak, another thing to take into consideration is the language you’re speaking in.
Have you ever noticed how some languages seem faster than others?
For instance, many people have the perception that Spanish is a ‘fast’ language, with speakers flying through words in a spirited conversational tone.
In order to address this perception, researchers from the Université de Lyon recruited 59 male and female volunteers who were native speakers of one of seven common languages — English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish — and one not so common one: Vietnamese. They were instructed to read 20 different texts, in their native languages and analysed the rate of communication.
What they found is that some languages contain words that are dense in meaning - for instance, the word ‘bliss’ which is a very specific level of happiness that transcends what is normally experienced. The density of meaning had an effect on the number of words it took to convey a message. Essentially, dense words or syllables, could communicate more in less time, while languages with less meaning-rich terms needed more words to convey the same message.
According to the research, English has a high information density and is spoken at an average rate of 6.19 syllables per second - while Mandarin, which had the most information packed in, clocked in as the slowest, at 5.18 syllables per second.
True to perception, Spanish is a faster language, with 7.82 syllables-per-second, however, it’s not as fast as Japanese, which was spoken at a rate of 7.84 syllables-per second.
However, while the velocity of speech that’s associated with certain languages does have an impact on the overall number of words per minute that are packed into a script, the influence shouldn’t be overly dramatic.
Should You Post a Number of Words Per Minute on Your Job?
If you’re crafting a job posting and trying to attract the right voice, should you include the number of words per minute that you’re looking for?
It’s certainly encouraged to share the word count, if you know what it is. In fact, when you’re filling out the Voices.com Job Posting Form, there is a field specifically for including the information.
While you may still receive quotes without the word count included, it’s worthwhile to note that the information can also be especially useful when you’re hiring for a job that is under time constraints (for example, a 15 second radio spot in which the speaker must understand that they’re speaking at a rapid pace in a small time frame).
If you don’t have the word count, you can still receive quotes. unless your piece is under severe time constraints, such as the disclaimer example above, where the speaker must pack in a large number of words in a small time frame, like a 15-second radio spot.
However, you can plug in some sample numbers using the length of your script and average speaking speed (between 110-150 words per minute in North American English), if you would like to gain an appreciation for how long it will take a voice talent to read the script.
However, if you do use this tool keep in mind that the total time to complete just one read is not an accurate measure of how long it will take a voice actor to complete the total job. There are many steps to creating the final product and this can add time to the voice actor’s job. This may include providing a variety of reads so that you get the absolute best take, and best performance for the job, as well as editing services or translation (depending on the job).