Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: A Quick-and-Dirty Word Count.

A Quick-and-Dirty Word Count

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 29, 2017)

In other issues of WordTips you learn how you can use one of Word's fields to insert a word count in your document. Many authors, editors, and publishers adhere to the rule that you determine word count by dividing the number of characters in your document by an average word size, such as 5. Thus, if there were 24,317 characters in your document, there would be 4,863 words. You can use fields to insert this type of word count in your document in the following manner:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the word count placed.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert a set of field braces. Make sure the insertion point remains between the braces.
  3. Press the equal sign (=).
  4. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert another set of field braces. Make sure the insertion point remains between the new braces.
  5. Type numchars.
  6. Press the right arrow twice. The insertion point should be between the two right braces.
  7. Type /5 (divided by 5). Your compound field should now look like this:
  8.      { ={ numchars }/5 }
    
  9. Press F9 to update the field.

You could, if you wanted, also include a bit more of a formula in your field in step 7. For instance, if you wanted to make sure that the value returned was an integer, you could use this as your field code:

     { =int({ numchars }/5) }

There is one other thing to keep in mind. If you compare the value returned by this approach to the value returned by Word's internal word counter, the values will be different. This "divide by 5" approach is an old rule of thumb for those in the publishing business. Word's internal counter calculates words by, essentially, looking at the number of spaces and punctuation in a document—the elements that normally denote the end of a word.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10026) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: A Quick-and-Dirty Word Count.

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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