When creating a sequence where text advances automatically, is there a metric which will allow me to calculate a reasonable duration to display each "sentence"?

My intuition tells me that because of the way we read, the number of words is probably more relevant than the number of characters, but I'm curious what people may have already figured out about this problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I always do it manually, some words are harder to read, some messages need dramatic pause, and sometimes user already know what an "actor" will say, and the shown sentence only makes him sure (if you know that the character will say either "Yes, I was there" or "No, I wasn't there", you read it as fast as simply "Yes" or "No") \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ My experience has been that the only time one should use auto-advancing text is when it's a subtitle; that is, when you actually have a voice-over speaking the text. And in that situation, you time the display to the vocals (being a little generous on the tail end of the line, when possible). Advancing text automatically will always result in some users not being able to keep up. And if you make them wait for the auto-advance, fast readers will grow bored. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 7:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TrevorPowell I agree with you, I'm one of those fast readers who grow bored when I have to wait for the text. But I'm in a situation where this text is being displayed as part of a networked game (i.e. everyone is seeing the same text at the same time) and I must use the same duration for every client to keep things in sync. :) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems an ideal question for testing and player feedback. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hackworth
    Sep 29, 2012 at 8:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidGouveia I've been trying to figure out how to get this effect on my textView, but all I find is examples on scrolling textViews. Is there anywhere I can find how to do this? \$\endgroup\$
    – Green_qaue
    Sep 29, 2012 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


This sounds like we need a research paper. I believe Dynamic Text beginning on page page 344 should give you solid averages to work off of for however your planning to display your text. Of course you have the issue of wanting to be slower than the average for users who have a below average reading speed.

Personally I believe it would be ideal to start out displaying the text as long as the average person reads and and then have as an option for the user to change the speed. Some thing as simple as "B" to slow it down and "A" to speed it up as some of the older console games had would work.

Unfortunately this is all assuming that the reader is expecting it. I would add the high end of the curve of the average human reaction time 300 milliseconds or so to the display time if its a prompt.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm interested in the contents of this paper, but not enough to buy it :\ \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 7:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oops sorry. Since I'm on the campus net work I don't hit the pay wall. If you describe how the text is shown I'll get the numbers that match your case. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 8:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! It's shown kinda like this. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 8:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ So no scrolling or movement just disappears or fades out? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 9:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ NO, it can scroll too. It's basically attached to the character, so if the character moves, or if the player moves in relation to the character, it will scroll. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2012 at 9:51

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