Words Per Minute

What Does Words Per Minute Mean?

Words per minute (WPM) is the number of words processed per minute, most commonly used to measure and denote the speed of typing or reading speed. For measuring typing speed, each word is standardized to be five characters or five keystrokes long, which include white space. So the phrase “I eat,” which is five keystrokes long, counts as one word, whereas the word “rhinoceros,” which is 10 letters long, is considered as two words.


Techopedia Explains Words Per Minute

Words per minute is an important measure for professions where typing is an integral part of the job, such as secretarial and transcription jobs. This was especially true in the 1920s through the 1970s when typing was an important secretarial qualification; contests were even held for typing speed and often publicized by companies selling typewriters. Professional typists using an alphanumeric keyboard usually type at speeds of 50 to 80 WPM, whereas advanced typists can achieve 120 WPM. The current world record for typing speed was attributed to writer Barbara Blackburn who can maintain 150 WPM for 50 minutes and with a top speed of 212 WPM; this was as of 2005. However, the fastest ever recorded was 216 WPM on an IBM electric keyboard in 1946 by Stella Pajunas.

Stenotype keyboards allow faster typing speeds of 225 WPM for well-trained users compared to using alphanumeric keyboards. That is why the stenotype keyboard is used for court reporting and closed captioning. The world record typing speed using a stenotype keyboard was 360 WPM.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.