Counting Words for Voice-Over Timing

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the August, 2008, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Gregory Ikens sent this to Philip Hodgetts who sent it to me:

The following word count timings should assist you in determining how many words will comfortably fit within a specified amount of time in a spot. This guide assumes a “normal” rate of speech (neither fast nor slow) and a basic “announcer” read.

Please note that for phone numbers, each spoken number = 1 word.
(i.e., 1-877-000-0000 = 11 words)


7 words
3 seconds
12 words
5 seconds
17 words
7 seconds
23 words
10 seconds
35 words
15 seconds
70 words
30 seconds
140 words
60 seconds

Larry replies: I love trivia like this. Thanks!


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14 Responses to Counting Words for Voice-Over Timing

  1. Alexandra says:

    This tool allows you to have an estimate of how much time will you need to read a text, whether it is a speech or a voice over/narration for a multimedia production:

  2. hunter says:

    Love it, Thanks!

  3. […] 2. Accessed October 10, 2017.  […]

  4. Dani says:

    Yep. It’s a common problem that phone numbers in ad scripts get left out of the word count… and are considered one word!
    And if you’re really unlucky, they’ll through in a www web address, not realising each ‘w’ is two words – double you.

  5. David says:

    How many words are in 17 seconds

  6. Gerry says:

    Hi, Larry: A number of years ago my work in radio and TV caused me to learn how many words to allow when writing News script or whatever. Later as Vice President of PR in a Toastmasters Club I taught people how to figure out how many words to include in their WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY & HOW’s for a Press Release.
    But that was a number of years ago and now I’m requested to do so again but have “lost” all my resources until I ran across you. Thank You;-).

    • Larry says:


      Happy to help. Welcome back to the weird world of media!


      • Gerry Coffey says:

        YOU are really on top of things, Larry! Would be lovely if your energy and efficiency was/is contagious. Speaking of which, I volunteer with the M.O.W.W., and our major endeavor is an annual 3 1/2 day YOUTH LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL.
        Because I, like many of our Volunteers,am well past retirement age, former skills like Shorthand and Typing, that stood me in good stead back during the Vietnam War, gave me an advantage over other Reporters who grabbed a word here and there for a quote and filled in the rest.
        With hindsight, I describe myself as a cross between Barbara Walters and Forest Gump;-). But those skills help little in today’s high tech age, so I’m wondering if you might suggest how us “old folks” might make good use of cameras/whatever to capture some of our outstanding Speakers (One was Michael Durant, the protagonist in “Black Hawk Down,” another a War-time General, etc.,) as well as our students’ presentations, for fund raising PR as well as inspiring archives.

        • Larry says:


          My suggestion is just grab your camera and record an interview. Keep it short, then look at it. The best way to learn is by doing.

          Once you have a system that works – and creates reasonably good looking images – you can start to get serious about recording your speakers.

          The key is don’t try to be perfect – you’ll never start. Instead, just start. Watch your work. Practice making it better. The more you do, the better you’ll get.

          Then, after a while, all the younger folks will be turning to you for advice.


  7. Susan says:

    Larry I’m a little concerned that you are pretending to be other people in the comments because of how simple and standard every bodies name is. To me this is a little bit suss because how am I meant to trust your judgement if you’re pretending to be other people on the internet, tonight I will test your ‘counting words for voice-over timing and will and will speak in the way that these numbers have come up. I hope i won’t be disappointed…

  8. Real Person who is weird about posting name says:

    Larry – I on a deadline writing some VOs and happened upon your website. You made my day and then some!

    I will have to come back when I get past crunch time, as it looks like there is lots & lots I can learn from you. Apologies for the overkill on the alliteration.

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