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How long would it take to read the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

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Do we ask people to read too much in too short a timeframe?

It’s not often that word counts and read times make it onto the national news agenda. But we do live in interesting times.

The publication of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill yesterday gave MPs hours in which to read a 115-page PDF document, which contains 45,729 words.

If we consider a normal reading speed of 200 words per minute, then the total time needed to read the whole of the document is 228m38s minutes or 3h48m38s.

Clearly, it is *possible* to read the document within the timeframes set by Government. It is also possible to read the accompanying explanatory notes (52,854 words) although that would require an additional 243m40s or 4h03m40s according to read-o-meter.

Finally, the delegated powers memorandum would take an additional 153m20s or 2h33m20s to read the 30,668 words it contains.

So what are the totals?

So, the total time that MPs need to set aside to read the whole of these documents (129,251 words) is 10h25m38s.

At 129,251 words, this is slightly longer than Atonement by Ian McEwan or Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Although slightly shorter than Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

At 10 hours 25 minutes and 38 seconds, this is more than just slightly above the average time on site for The Government’s website which is 3m06s. That’s a ratio of around 1/200th of the time it takes to read those documents*.

Now, we have a distinct and engaged audience here who will, no doubt have foregone any sleep last night in order to read these entire documents. Probably best to grab a coffee this morning.

For the rest of us, it’s probably better to consider marrying the read time of our outputs to the time our audience is likely to spend on the page. Maybe measure your outputs using a Total Read Time method?


P.S. How long does it take to read this article? 1m44s, since you ask.

*yes, I know that this is a slightly false equivalence as people download the PDF. But as you may already know, I think PDFs should not be used on websites if possible, and certainly not in isolation.

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