HOW TO – Estimate Script Length for Audio Voiceover

Working on a project that will include audio voiceover?

Here’s how to estimate how long the voiceover will be, based on the number of words in your script:

  • Choose a text you’ve written that’s similar in nature to what you’ll be recording
  • Set a time for one minute
  • Read the text aloud, at a comfortable pace, until the timer goes off
  • Select the last word you read all the way back up to the first word
  • Determine the word count for the selection (using the word count available in most word processors)

Now you know your average WPM = words per minute.

If your project has time limits, you can use your WPM to estimate target script length:

WPM x minimum minutes = minimum word count for your script
WPM x maximum minutes = maximum word count for your script

For example:

– project has a maximum of 5 minutes
– you speak at 120wpm
– your script should be under 600 words

Average Words Per Page

To estimate page count, figure out how many words per page you tend to write, using your draft or another document similar to the one you’ll be recording.

As a general example, a document with:

single-spaced lines
1″ margins
Cambria 12pt font

typically has between 500-700 words per page, depending on paragraph length and use of dialogue.

Averages Speaking Rates

Here are some average speaking rates by professionals, to help you put your WPM into context:

  • Lectures and presentations: 100-120wpm
  • Audiobooks: 150-160wpm
  • Talk radio and podcasts: 160wpm
  • Auctioneers (almost too fast to hear): 250wpm

Given that your audio voiceover is likely to accompany visuals the viewer also has to pay attention, your WPM should probably be in the range of lectures and presentations or lower.

Average Conversation & Reading Rates

More average rates to put your WPM into context:

  • Casual, in-person conversation: 120-180wpm
  • Reading speed for non-specialized material: 250-350wpm