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Aaron KierskyReading Speed
by on Apr 20, 2010 at 3:02:24 pm

Anyone have a rule of thumb for how fast people can read large-ish bodies of copy?

Reading online looks like most people read at about 200-300wpm so I figured that giving about 100wpm would give plenty of time. Is that too slow? some of the text in my animation is about 3-5 lines long, maybe 20-25 words, so at 100wpm, 25 words would take about 15 seconds. that seems like a long time. even assuming 150wpm it would be 10 seconds.


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Dave LaRondeRe: Reading Speed
by on Apr 20, 2010 at 3:15:03 pm

I think you're missing the boat.

I think you're assuming that people will actually pay close enough attention to your work so they WANT to make the effort to read at 100-150 words/min. Bad assumption.

When I make my promos for the station, I try to keep my on-screen text to about 7 words maximum, and leave it on-screen for about 3-4 seconds. Do the arithmetic.

Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, and I violate the rule myself, but if the on-screen text makes your video a real effort for viewers to watch -- even viewers in a captive audience -- how successful do you think you'll be at getting your point across?

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA

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Jeremy AllenRe: Reading Speed
by on Apr 20, 2010 at 8:02:20 pm

I agree with dave.. 3-5 lines of text is way too much.. Just look at any good commercial or promo and you will understand why they keep the copy to as few words on screen as possible at a time. Maybe you can edit the copy some. You'd be surprised how many extraneous words you can take out and still deliver the same message.

The other part of the challenge is to convince the producer, copywriter or just "boss" in general to use fewer words. For some reason, the "suits" love to be overly wordy. I have the same issue with my boss sometimes, even after 7 years of working together and going through this over and over and over and..

A good argument for fewer words is how it slows down the flow of the piece and could cause the viewer to lose interest. You've got a nice, snappy edit and then boom, 5 lines of text on screen for 15 seconds!? Might as well be 2 minutes of text in today's fast-paced, short attention span society.

And finally, if they just won't go for less text, could you at least break up the text so you only have one line at a time? This way you get a little more animation in there, which helps to keep the flow going, and its a little more visually interesting for the viewer.. Good luck!

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Jon BaggeRe: Reading Speed
by on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:20:58 am

The only real way to have lots of lines on the screen and get people to read it is to have a voiceover that reads the lines as they come up.

There is probably a reason why this is the way everyone on TV does it when they have to either make a long quote or read some legal stuff.

Other than that, as the others have said, keep it short. And assume that most people won't read everything anyway.

Jon Bagge
Editor - London, UK
Avid - FCP - After Effects

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