🔖 Determine Your "Characters Per Second" English Reading Speed [a 5-minute experiment]

For anyone who is interested…

Here is a short experiment to determine how quickly you will most likely read subtitles in characters per second (cps). If you want to take part in this experiment, you may want to copy the “Reading Text” into MS Word or equivalent.

What to do…

  1. Start a stopwatch going immediately before beginning to read.

I used the online stopwatch at…

  1. Read the below text from beginning to end.

  2. Stop the timer.

  3. Read the next post in this thread to find out how to determine your reading speed.

Apart from the words “Winston” and “Churchill”, the below 800-word essay consists entirely of one syllable words, so the brain is not challenged by complex terms.

MS Word gives 3,772 as the number of characters in this essay.


“Short words are best”, said Winston Churchill, “and old words when short are the best of all”

AND, not for the first time, he was right: short words are best. Plain they may be, but that is their strength. They are clear, sharp and to the point. You can get your tongue round them. You can spell them. Eye, brain and mouth work as one to greet them as friends, not foes. For that is what they are. They do all that you want of them, and they do it well. On a good day, when all is right with the world, they are one more cause for cheer. On a bad day, when the head aches, you can get to grips with them, grasp their drift and take hold of what they mean. And thus they make you want to read on, not turn the page.

Yes, yes, you may say, that all sounds fine. But from time to time good prose needs a change of pace—a burst of speed, a touch of the brake, a slow swoop, a spring, a bound, a stop. Some might say a shaft of light and then a dim glow, some warp as well as weft, both fire and ice, a roll on the drum as much as a toot on the flute. Call it what you will. The point is that to get a range of step, stride and gait means you have to use some long words, some short and some, well, just run of the mill, those whose place is in the mid range. What’s more, though you may find you can write with just short words for a while, in the end don’t you have to give in and reach for one of those terms which, like it or not, is made up of bits, more bits and yet more bits, and that adds up to a word which is long?

Then there is the ban on new words, or at least a puff for the old. Why? Time has moved on. The tongues of yore need help if they are to serve the way we live now. And, come to that, are you sure that the Greeks and Gauls and scribes of Rome were as great as they are cracked up to be? Singe my white head, they could make long words as well as any Hun or Yank or French homme de lettres who plies his trade these days.

Well, yes, some of those old folks’ words were on the long side, but long ones were by no means the rule. And though the tongue in which you read this stole words from here and there, and still does, at the start, if there was one, its words were short. Huh, you may say, those first “words” were no more than grunts. Yet soon they grew to be grunts with a gist, and time has shown that, add to the length of your words as you may, it is hard to beat a good grunt with a good gist.

That is why the short words, when old, are still the tops. Tough as boots or soft as silk, sharp as steel or blunt as toast, there are old, short words to fit each need. You want to make love, have a chat, ask the way, thank your stars, curse your luck or swear, scold and rail? Just pluck an old, short word at will. If you doubt that you will find the one you seek, look at what can be done with not much: “To be or not to be?” “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light,” “We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” “The year’s at the spring/And day’s at the morn…/The lark’s on the wing;/The snail’s on the thorn.”

It can be done, you see. If you but try, you can write well, and say what you want to say, with short words. And you may not need a lot of them: some words add just length to your prose. That piece of string, the one whose length you all the time have to guess, is no less fine if it is short than if it is long; on its own, its length is not good, not bad, just the sum of its two halves. So it is with words. The worth of each lies in the ends to which it is put. Tie your string well, or ill, and its length counts for naught. Make your point well with short words, and you will have no use for long ones. Make it not so well, and you will be glad that you kept them crisp. So, by God, will those who have to read you.


Source of the essay…



  1. Convert the length of time it took to read the above text into seconds.

  2. Since the above essay has 3,772 characters, divide your reading time into 3,772 to obtain a reading speed in characters per second (cps).

For example… here are my results…

Reading time

This equals (3 x 60) + 53 = 233 seconds

Using Windows calculator, my reading speed is therefore
3,772 ÷ 233 = 16.2 cps


54,7 cps :thinking: I tried to slow down, but I’m used to jumping through texts. :woman_shrugging:


Wow!!! That’s a super power. Very impressive.


So cool!
I got 26.6 cps


Ooooaaaahhh… you’re a gifted human too :slight_smile:

I’m going to put together some little audio clips to show what different cps rates sound like when they’re spoken. Those will take me a couple of days, though.


I got 46, but like Xylune, I’m used to jumping through texts :sweat_smile:


Oh gosh!!! That’s impressive. My eye movement would become a cyclone if I tried to do that. Quite simply, it’s impossible for me! I’m perfectly happy with my 16.2 cps :slight_smile:

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Hi, nice experiment! I got 19,5. We have to keep in mind though that the text is not in our native language, so the reading speed can’ t actually be accurate like that. I actually did an experiment by reading a random text of the same number of characters in my native language and the cps was 31.7. So I guess I need shorter subtitles when I watch something with English subtitles😂.


This is seriously interesting information. Thanks for taking the time to pass on your comparison.


Same here :sweat_smile:. I rushed through it a bit.
56.2 cps

I’ve also had some sidejobs in which speedreading was important :blush:.


Is this a test? :confused:



I think it’s mostly practice… I was a huuuuge bookworm before i got into Dramaland. I’m sure anyone’s speed can improve if they keep reading.


Only if you’re interested :slight_smile:

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Incredible! I’m blown away by this value. If you consider that the average word length in that piece is…

3772 ÷ 800 = 4.72 characters per word

This means that your reading speed in words per minute is…

(56.2 ÷ 4.72) x 60 = 714 wpm (this is for 1-syllable words)

Gee… just looking at that number makes feel like I’ve run a marathon.
:running_man: :running_man: :running_man: :running_man:


I agree. I also think that the type of education a person experienced might impact on this.

I’m a physics/chemistry/math person and my university/college reading was text books and scientific articles. Trying to read these fast was counterproductive because complete understanding of the science being discussed was imperative. Often that understanding was heavily threaded with mathematical proofs. There was one day in 2nd year uni that I clearly remember. I spent 8 hours on 2 pages of a complex-chemistry textbook trying to understand what the author was meaning. While I understood the words I was reading, my brain could not process that information in terms of chemical principles and mathematical development. Eventually I got there, but it was a slow process.


I’ve got 28.2 cps and I know, I’m not reading that fast. English is my first foreign language, I tend to read texts like I would read them loud with a kind of pronunciation in my head. Come on, that’s a text from Winston Churchill and he was famous for his wicked sense of humor, so why should I rush instead of enjoying reading it? :wink:


Absolutely!!! I laughed a lot as I read through it. It’s really great writing. And all with one syllable words.

I’m used to read books, about 100-130 pages per hour, so I’m unable to stop :slight_smile: I rather read stuff a few times if necessary, but subtitles are usually not as scientific. Unless it’s about very complicated medical terms or something :flushed:


From where I sit on the reading-speed scale, 100-130 pages per hour is an incredible speed. It’s truly outstanding!

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