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Get a Quick Word Count

Lori Halley 17 July 2008 2 comments

Few of us can accurately guess the number of words in a block of text, just by looking at it, even with years of practice. Fortunately, a 'ballpark estimate' is usually good enough for most purposes.

There are times, however, when your word count does matter.

Directory listings with specific length restrictions, for example. Or press releases, newsletter pieces, slide presentations, or brochures, where the length of the text is restricted by the format and graphic design. Audio scripts that must be timed out with precision. Even when you're writing a post for your organization's blog, or backgrounders for press kits, or articles for web and print syndication, the length of your written piece may be prescribed or restricted.

word count tool screenshotIn cases like these, it's handy to have a quick and easy way to count your words -- and my current favourite free web-based tool for the purpose is WordCountTool.com.

What I like about this lightweight free tool is that it does exactly what the name implies -- no more, no less -- quickly and accurately. Even for users with slow dial-up Internet connections, the site loads and functions quickly enough to be a real time-saver.

I also like the criteria that this tool uses to decide what in your text will be counted as a word. Stand-alone numerals don't rate, for example, but ordinals and words containing numbers do. It gives quite a reliable measure of text length, compared to other tools I've tried.

Yes, there are other ways to do a quick word count on your writing.

Those of us who cut our teeth in the print world will recall that 25 lines of text in Courier New font, 12 pt size, on a letter-sized page with one-inch margins all round, will yield approximately 250 words per page. If you set your word-processing software defaults to reflect that font and line length, you'll always be able to do a quick estimate of how many words you've written -- even if that software has no word count feature.

Much easier, however, is to let the software do the work. Google Docs, Zoho Writer, Open Office and MS Word will all count the words for you. MS Office 2007 marked a great improvement in this area over earlier MS Word versions, by the way: No longer buried in the Spellcheck menu, the running word count is now displayed in the status bar at the bottom of each document window -- a very handy feature for a writer in a rush.

But if you're doing just a quick bit of Notepad writing or online text editing -- and your web browser is all fired up anyway -- using a quick online tool like WordCountTool.com can be more efficient than opening up a whole new document just to get a word count. Sometimes the simplest tools are the ones to have bookmarked! 

A few comparable web-based word count tools that come to mind are WordCalc.com (which counts your words and/or calculates the number of syllables) and this one at AllWorldPhone.com (which counts both characters and words), but I'm sure there are many more of them out there.

When the word count matters, how do you count your words?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 10:30 PM


  • Sharon Hurley Hall said:

    Friday, 18 July 2008 at 4:11 AM

    Those are useful tools, Rebecca. There have been times when I have needed something like this and I usually resort to pasting into Word and counting the words there. Since my browser is always open, this makes a great alternative.

  • Colin Campbell said:

    Friday, 18 July 2008 at 8:27 PM

    Thanks. I have always pasted into Word. I don't have it on my home computer at the moment, so very useful.

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