Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

Message On Hold - How Many Words Per Minute?

script tips, voice prompts, message on holdFor a standard Message on Hold program, Holdcom offers options ranging from a four-minute plan up until an eight-minute plan. When a client goes through our self-service online store, they will select their desired plan and copy-paste a written script.

More often than not, the script will be too long. Not by ten or twenty words, but often by hundreds.

What accounts for this discrepancy between time and amount of words, or "word copy"?

  • It is easy to fall into the trap of familiarity. Have you ever been so passionate about your work that you could literally talk for an hour, and still have the itch to say more?
  • Clients do not read their scripts out loud. You can cover more information through reading text, a visual act, than reading and speaking text, which is a multi-sensory act. It not only takes longer, but you are self-aware of each inflection, how sentences are phrased, and each pause for breath.
  • When clients do read their scripts out loud, they read it in a conversational-style. Words often overlap and clarity isn’t the focal point – content, not presentation, is put first. For voiceover artists, their task is 100% presentation.

On average, the number of words a professional voice talent can speak, clearly and with steady enunciation, is around 112 words per minute (450 words over 4 minutes, or 850 over eight minutes, give or take a few due to pauses). In screenwriting and playwriting, one written page is equivalent to one minute of screen/stage time - except maybe for Fran Capo, the world's fastest talking female, who enunciate the Gettysburg Address in 30 seconds.

For a Message On Hold program, music is added to complement the spoken content. To save room for the hold music, you can use 100 words per minute as a maximum for on hold programming.

It is always important to read your work out loud! Adding a voice makes a world of difference.

Tags: resources, message on hold, tips