Words to Time: Useful Calculator for Voiceover Recordings

Whether you’re a seasoned voiceover talent or just starting out, understanding the relationship of words to time is crucial.  Knowing how to estimate how long a script will take to read can help you quote for projects with confidence, and manage studio time efficiently.  This is also useful for media production companies working on scripts ready to cast their perfect voiceover artist!

To use the script timer below, simply enter the word count in the first box and choose a pace.  Then you’ll see how many hours and how many minutes it will roughly take to read the text out loud. 

Words to Time Calculator (hours and minutes)


Easily find the number of words

If you are writing your script in Word, you can always find the word count in the bottom left of the window.  In Pages on a Mac,  you can access the word-count feature by clicking on the “View” menu and selecting “Show Word Count”.

Reading 'in your head'

It’s worth remember that the time it takes you to read something in your head will generally be much less than reading out loud.  

5 facts about reading speeds

1. The average adult typically reads between 200 to 300 words per minute. This can vary depending on the complexity of the text and the readers intentions.

2. Speed reading is a skill that can boost reading speed significantly although it may come at the expense of full comprehension as skimming and skipping individual words become common.

3. Our brains are naturally inclined towards vision rather than rapid information processing while reading so we need to retrain our brains to process text in larger chunks for faster reading.

4. Reading from screens tends to be slower (10% – 30%) than reading from printed materials due to factors like eye strain and the nature of scrolling text interaction.

5. Some notable historical figures like President John F. Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt were renowned for their reading abilities while modern speed readers claim speeds of over 1000 words per minute.

words-to-time calculator

As applicable to reading a book to yourself or working as a voiceover artist, deftly communicating the intentions for the writer.  True mastery of reading lies in knowing when to slow down for deep understanding and when to move quickly over less crucial material.

It’s a reminder that reading isn’t just about how fast you can get through a book (or script) but strategically getting the most value out of it.

My love of words

I love words.  A  good thing really, as a voiceover artist I work with them all day.  I’ve always been interested in where they come from.  Here’s a quick summary of where new words come from:  Etymology

Reading speeds in voice-over

Deciphering Reading Speed: Words Per Minute (WPM)

When estimating how long it takes to deliver a script (words-to-time) the key factor is the reading speed typically measured in words per minute (WPM).  Most people read at a pace ranging from 125 to 150 WPM.  However this rate can vary based on the complexity of the content, the need for emphasis on specific words and intentional pauses. It’s also influenced by the speaking speeds found across various languages.

You’ll see in the calculator above, three typical speeds that can apply to various types of voiceover recordings.


Real Life Considerations: Just an Approximation

It’s important to understand that tools for calculating reading speed provide an approximation rather than an exact science. The best way to gauge real world timing is by practicing reading your script out loud and timing yourself. Additionally the desired style and tone of delivery will greatly affect how quickly or slowly you speak.  For instance a high energy advertisement will naturally be delivered faster than a laid-back narrative piece.

Looking Beyond Numbers: Mastering the Art of Delivery

While words to time calculators (like the one above) are useful tools, what truly matters in a voiceover performance goes beyond mere numbers.  Elements like breathing patterns, varied intonation and conveying the intended meaning behind each word are what elevate your delivery and make it impactful.  Prioritise clarity, and focus on pace as a way to enhance the meaning of your content rather than solely worrying about hitting a specific time target.


Words to Time in Action

Let’s explore some common scenarios where understanding “words to time” helps voice actors:

    • Client Quotes: An accurate understanding of reading time ensures you quote projects competitively and fairly.
    • Studio Sessions: Estimating recording length helps block out the right amount of studio time, optimising your budget.
    • Self-Recording: Knowing the approximate duration of a script gives you a target to wrap your project efficiently.
    Check out my article giving scriptwriting tips for voice-over


    Additional Tips

      • Check Calculator Assumptions: Different words-to-time calculators may vary with their assumed average reading speed. Understand what your tool considers the “average” to be.

      • Factor in Complexity: Content dense with difficult terminology or specific phrasing may take longer to read aloud.

      • Test Yourself! Try recording yourself reading different scripts and compare them to the calculator estimates. This builds an awareness of your own average reading speed.

      The National Center for Voice and Speech states that the average rate of conversational talk is between 120 and 150 words per minute. Keep in mind that “average” is the keyword here – your delivery and the text’s nature will cause this to fluctuate.


      Words are just a starting point

      Ultimately, ‘words to time’ calculators are valuable for project planning. They provide an indication of the minutes for a speech or presentation. However, the mark of a true voiceover professional lies in crafting an interpretation of a script that is engaging and impactful for the audience. Remember, your goal is not simply to read the words quickly, but to deliver them with meaning and serve the expectations of the client and the needs of the audience.

      Contact me