The average English-speaking adult’s reading speed is 250 words per minute, with 70% comprehension. This means that you probably took 7 seconds to read up to here (and comprehended everything except for this parenthetical). Now, it has probably been 8.89 seconds, and now 9. Given the 70% comprehension rate, it is likely that you didn’t comprehend that it had been 9 seconds when you read that it had been 9 seconds, which is why you are now being informed that it was 9 seconds 7.35 seconds ago. Therefore, since you started reading, it has been 18.773 seconds (and factoring in this parenthetical it has been 19.902). If you have been counting the time it took to read the title of this piece, don’t. All the numbers will be off: titles take a puzzlingly unpredictable amount of time to read. Go back to the beginning and read without the title. Now it’s been 30 seconds. Actually, knock off 3.4 seconds because you’d read the material before: so now it has really been exctly 30 seconds. We had to remove the “a” in exactly — otherwise it would have been 30.00038 seconds and not exactly 30. However, if, when you read “exctly” you noticed and then fixated on the spelling error, then it would have been 33 seconds, because the average English-speaking adult’s spelling-error-noticing-and-fixation-time is 3 seconds. So either way you wound up with a nice round number. But now no longer, because it’s been 37.664 seconds since you started (or 40.664 seconds if you fixated on “exctly”). From now on we will refer to readers who fixated on “exctly” as Reader Group A and readers who did not fixate on “exctly” as Reader Group B. For members of Reader Group A it has now been 42.6744 seconds since the beginning of this piece, and for members of Reader Group B it has now been 59.6744 seconds since the beginning. But don’t mistake this for meaning that the two reader groups are now caught up with each other. If you can’t figure out why that’s not the case, don’t bother, just keep reading, otherwise you’ll throw everything off. Also please do not check any of the arithmetic so far, as that, too, would throw everything off. If you have checked any of the arithmetic so far, start over. On average, if you have started over, you will have read the material up until now 5.67 seconds faster because of the familiarity factor.
As you’ve been reading this, you have been getting increasingly bored, especially if you’ve had to start over once or twice. This could have one of two effects on your reading speed: either you read slower due to boredom-induced sluggishness, or you begin to skim. If you have become sluggish, then your average reading speed has by now slowed down to 208 words per minute. If, however, you skim, then your average reading speed has gone up to 321 words per minute (and your comprehension rate has dropped to approximately 48%, which means you’ll need to read this sentence again. So here you go: If, however, you skim, then your average reading speed has gone up to 321 words per minute (and your comprehension rate has dropped to approximately 48%, which means you’ll have needed to read this sentence again.))
So at this point we have 4 distinct, identifiable groups of readers: members of Reader Group A who have become sluggish (these people will be called Reader Group A1), members of Reader Group A who have begun to skim (these people will be called Reader Group A2), members of Reader Group B who have become sluggish (these people will be called Reader Group B1), and members of Reader Group B who have begun to skim (these people will be called Reader Group B2). There is also Reader Group C, which will now decide to skip to the last sentence of this piece to see how it ends.
You are nearing the end of your egg-timer-substitute experience: If you are a member of Reader Group A1, it has been 2 minutes and 13.7 seconds. If you are a member of Reader Group A2, it has been 2 minutes and 1 second. If you are a member of Reader Group B1, it has been 2 minutes and 21.5 seconds. If you are a member of Reader Group B2, you have now caught up with Reader Group B1. And if you are a member of Reader Group C then we’re not letting you get away with this: Take 2 minutes to think about how you’ve ruined your egg-timer experience.
Shon Arieh-Lerer is a vegan and does not condone your usage of this egg-timer to time eggs. He encourages you to consider a diet that is friendly towards other animals. He also directs the comedy group His Majesty, the Baby.