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If you are an avid reader of content on the Internet, I am sure that you have seen that many pages show you estimates of the time you will need to read your articles. If this seems interesting to you and you would like to add it to your website, you are in luck. Today I will explain how to show the reading time of your posts in WordPress.

On Average We Can Read 200 to 300 Words Per Minute

The first thing we need to measure the time our visitors will need to read our posts is a simple metric: the WPM, or how many words (on average) an adult can read in a minute. And the answer can be found directly on this Free Reading Test:

The average adult reading speed is between 200 and 300 words per minute (same reading rate you want to achieve by the 6th grade). For success in college you should be able to read 350 to 450 words per minute if you want to have any extra time.


With this metric and with the count of the number of words that a particular post has we will be able to know, by means of a simple division (and without being teachers of mathematics), an estimate of the reading time of our posts.

For example, if we choose a speed of 250 WPM and our post has about 1,500 words, we estimate that an average adult will take 6 minutes to read it (1,500 words divided by 250 WPM).

This same calculation is the one used by websites that show the reading time estimation. If you expected something more spectacular than a simple division, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

The Reading Time of Your WordPress Posts

In order to display this information in your WordPress posts we have several options. The easiest one is to go directly to search for a plugin that will help us. To save you work I have looked at the ones you can find in the WordPress plugin directory. These are the results of the analysis of a couple of the most used plugins at the time of writing this post:

  • Reading Time WP: Calculates the estimate and adds it to you before the content of the post. Additionally, it allows you to add the estimate through a WordPress shortcode.
  • Read Meter: It displays the estimated reading time for blog posts along with a progress bar.  A simple shortcode – [read_meter], gives you the flexibility to add the read time anywhere on the site.

Any of these plugins is going to work for you, since their operation is practically identical. And if you want to learn how to develop plugins with WordPress, they are a good example with which to start studying, since the code they include is very easy to understand and very short. Ideal for beginners.

And if what you want is to directly put it in your theme without using plugins, you can use the function below from Remkus de Vries:

Don’t be afraid to try it and put it in your theme. The function simply gets the content of a post, counts how many words there are and divides by the WPM that you have indicated (200 WPM, in the code). From there, build a phrase with the minutes and seconds it will take for the average visitor to read the post.

Showing Estimation Can Be a Double-Edged Sword

Although it may seem very interesting to see how long it will take to read the post, it is possible that those who are more lazy/busy think that spending those minutes to read it is not worth it, spending their time doing other tasks and without reading your text.

On the one hand, showing this information can attract more readers and increase the time they spend on your page. But on the other, it can have the opposite effect. The best, as always, is for you to try it. If you manage to improve the current results, good for you. And if, on the contrary, you lose readers, you just have to remove it from your website and perhaps explain your experience so that we all learn from it ?

Featured image by zoutedrop.

5 responses to “Show The Reading Time of Your WordPress Posts”

  1. Rui Oliveira Avatar
    Rui Oliveira

    Hi there,
    I didn’t realize if using these types of plugins will help really something.
    And from the point of view of Google, does it helps? Does it make the site rank better?
    I mean when we compare with another feature such as Table of Contents, that makes Google rank your site better.
    I can’t find any evidence on that.
    Any thoughts on this?

    1. Antonio Villegas Avatar

      Hi Rui. I don’t think this feature will help your site rank better on Google. It’s just a nice feature to have to give some insights to your readers about the time they’ll need to read the article.

  2. John Avatar

    Great function, thank you!

  3. reis Avatar

    What should I do to use this code as a shortcode?
    My theme has a blog template editor.
    After adding this code to the function.php page I need to use a shortcode.

    1. Antonio Villegas Avatar

      Here’s a guide on how to create shortcodes. You need to call the function fm_estimated_reading_time inside the callback function used in the add_shortcode().

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