Word count

A word count is the number of words that a document contains. Knowing the number of words in a document is sometimes important, for instance if the author is required to stay within certain minimum or maximum bounds, particularly in academia, legal proceedings, journalism and advertising. Word counts are also important in defining typing and reading speeds (usually measured in words per minute), and they are also occasionally used to differentiate different categories of writing, particularly prose writing, for judgment in literary contests.

Word counts may also be important for spoken pieces. Formal speaking in English is usually around 100 to 120 words per minute; thus, for example, an eight-minute speech would contain roughly 800 to 960 words.

The command wc in Unix/Linux can do automatic word counts, as can many word processors. Different word counting programs may give unequal results for the same document, depending on the text segmentation algorithms used, or whether footnotes are counted.

Word Counts in publishing

Publishers often estimate book size by number of pages rather than word count: this measure includes white space. In professional publishing, 250 words per page is generally considered to be standard. This standard was set in earlier times, when most manuscripts (MS) were prepared on typewriters with fixed pitch fonts. Most publishers accept manuscripts in any clear, easily readable font, but the old guideline of 250 words per page is still the norm. Thus, a book of 100 pages is deemed to contain roughly 25,000 words.

The majority of Word Processing programs give a word count broken down into the number of pages, words, characters (no spaces), characters (with spaces), paragraphs, and lines with a checkbox to include footnotes and endnotes.

Document types defined by word counts

For many kinds of prose or poetry writing, a word count can help determine the classification of the piece of writing, although the exact thresholds vary depending on the organization making the classification.

Classification Typical word count
Novel 80,000+ words
Novella 17,500 to 80,000 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story 1,000 to 7,500 words
Flash fiction under 1,000 words

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America association uses word count length for determining Nebula awards categories.

The acceptable length of an academic thesis varies greatly, dependent predominantly on the subject. Griffith University gives the following maximums (not including appendices or footnotes):



  • .

    • . An article on various word count methods in fiction publishing.
    • . An article on the relative importance of various word count methods in fiction publishing.

Search another word or see Word_counton Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature