Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Word and Character Count Information.

Word and Character Count Information

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 9, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Word keeps track of quite a bit of summary information for your documents. One of the pieces of information maintained is the number of characters in your document and another is the number of words. This information is updated whenever the document is saved or printed. Word allows you to insert this summary information into your document by following these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the number of words to appear.
  2. Make sure the Insert tab of the ribbon is displayed.
  3. Click the Quick Parts tool in the Text group. Word displays a number of choices from which you should choose Field. Word displays the Field dialog box.
  4. Using the Categories drop-down list, choose Document Information. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Field dialog box.

  6. If you want to insert the number of characters in your document, select NumChars from the Field Names list.
  7. If you want to insert the number of words in your document, select NumWords from the Field Names list.
  8. Click on OK.

By combining the NumChars and NumWords fields, you can easily calculate the average word length. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want to insert the field.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert a set of field braces in your document.
  3. Within the braces, type an equal sign, then press Ctrl+F9 again to insert another set of field braces.
  4. Within the new set of field braces, enter the name NumChars.
  5. After the NumChars field, enter a slash (/), and then press Ctrl+F9 again to insert a third set of field braces.
  6. Within the new set of field braces, enter the name NumWords. Your compound field should now look as follows:
  7.      {={NumChars}/{NumWords}}
    
  8. Position the insertion point right before the equal sign and press the F9 key to update the field.

Remember: The {braces} shown in step 6 are not typed in; they are created by pressing Ctrl+F9 in steps 2, 3, and 5.

Finally, remember that fields are not updated "on the fly," so to speak. Instead, you must take steps to update them. This means that if you add the fields discussed in this tip and later edit your document to add or delete words, the fields won't update until you select the field and press F9. At that point, Word updates the field and the figures shown should be correct.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7124) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Word and Character Count Information.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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