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How many words per minute in a speech?

A quick guide for slow, average and fast rates of speech

By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 02-03-2022

If you're preparing a speech with a strict time limit it’s useful to have an estimate of the number of words you’ll need to fit the number of minutes you've been given.

And it's even more useful to have those guidelines before you rush into writing, only to discover when you’re done, you’ve written far too much. Something I used to do on a regular basis! (And then, I had the tedious job of pruning to fit.)

About this quick reference

The following table (below) shows the average number of words in a 1 to 10 minute speech. It's a quick reference, one only intended to provide general guidelines.

Who, and what, is truly average?

An average total word count for any timed speech (one minute, two minutes, three, four, five, six...or more, minutes) is impossible to give. As there really is no such thing as an average person, with an average reading speed, an average rate of speech, an average rate of conversational talk, or speaking speed.

We are individuals: each of us different. Speech patterns and speech rates vary considerably between person to person for a great many reasons. The best you’ll ever get is an educated guess.

Use as an estimate: test yourself to be sure

That aside, the following estimates will give you a handy indication of the minutes it takes to say x number of words depending on whether you talk at a slow speed, a medium speed or you're one of the world's fast talkers.

(And, no, it's never a good idea to gabble at a mile a minute to fit everything you've prepared into the length of time you've been given!)

To be absolutely sure that what you've done will fit the time allocation you've been given it's a good idea to test yourself to establish your own speaking rate or speed of speech.

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How many words are there in a 1-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker, less than 120 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 120 - 160 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 160 - 200 words.

How many words are there in a 2-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 240 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 240 - 320 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 320 - 400 words.

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How many words are there in a 3-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 360 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 360 – 480 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 480 - 600 words.

How many words are there in a 4-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 480 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 480 – 640 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 640 - 800 words.

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How many words are there in a 5-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 600 words,

If you speak at an average speed between: 600 – 760 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 760 - 1000 words.

How many words are there in a 6-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 720 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 720 – 960 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 960 - 1200 words.

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How many words are there in a 7-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 840 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 840 – 1120 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 1120 - 1400 words.

How many words are there in an 8-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 960 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 960 – 1280 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 1280 - 1600 words.

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How many words are there in a 9-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 1080 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 1080 – 1440 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 1440 - 1800 words.

How many words are there in a 10-minute speech?

If you are a slow speaker less than 1200 words.

If you speak at an average speed between: 1200 – 1600 words.

If you are a fast speaker between: 1600 - 2000 words.

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Find out more about speech rate

Word per minute calculator

Lastly here's the link to a useful online words per minutes calculator. Once you've completed your speech enter the total number of words, and select whether you want it to give you an average for a minute of your speech at a slow rate, average or fast rate. Again, it's a 'guesstimate'. ☺

The only really safe way to find out whether your speech fits the limited time you have is to say it aloud at an ideal rate of speech, one matching the content and the audience who is going to listen to it, and record it.

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