View Full Version : Industry standard to calculate "word count"?

09-27-2009, 07:52 AM
I know this question has probably been asked a million times, but I can't find it with forum search because of limitations on the key word lengths. When I tried Google and other things, I got lists of uninformed, idiotic answers. (Yes, random Yahoo Answers people, I know MS Word has a word count function, and I'm pretty sure it's completely wrong by industry standards.)

The "word count" in OpenOffice counts actual words. The word "a" is considered a single word, and the word "abracadabra" is considered a single word.

I'm sure this isn't the industry standard. What is the industry standard for determining word count? Is it total characters divided by a number? (I'm thinking divided by 5.) Or is there some other arcane formula involved?

09-27-2009, 07:57 AM
I copied this from somewhere ages ago, don't know who the original author is:

Writers should never use the word-count feature of their computers to determine the number of words in a manuscript. The term word count, as used in the publishing industry, is actually inaccurate. Editors count pages, not words. Properly prepared manuscripts, with 25 lines of type to a page and an average of 10 words to a line are assumed to contain 250 words on each full page. Partial pages, where the text covers half or less of the available space, are counted as 125 words for the publishers purposes, except for the first pages of chapters or short stories which are counted as full pages. Once the initial word-count has been calculated, it should be rounded up to the nearest 1000 words (100 for short stories).

EDIT: Somewhere else it says that one word is considered six characters, so one line should hold a maximum of sixty characters

09-27-2009, 04:00 PM

Note the search search term with the 'site:absolutewrite.com/forums'

09-28-2009, 03:56 AM
Thanks for the tip, CupofDice.

Looking at one of the posts that came up, it looks like the industry standard is apparently to use word processor counts now?

That's cool, because that's what I used to use until I read several pages where writers said "ignore your word processor's estimate" and "do some weird thing where you figure out the average characters for five random pages and then divide and multiply by a different number" and "count pages, multiply by 250."

I guess I'm going to stick with my word processor's count, then, since it makes a lot more sense than any of the other methods. I could see finding character count and dividing by 6, but the "multiply pages by 250" thing sounds weird. If that's the standard, it would make more sense to simply talk about pages, rather than word count. (If 100,000 words actually meant 400 pages regardless of literal word count, they might as well say 400 pages instead of 100,000 words.)

EDIT: And now I'm reading things that insist that a line count is what you need to do. Argh. If publishers want to know "how many pieces of paper," why don't they say "how many pieces of paper?"

09-28-2009, 03:59 AM
I use my word processor count and round up. Agent Rachelle Gardner tweeted about this a few days ago and said:

Calculating word count: use the actual number given by MS Word, unless you're told to do it differently. No need to ask.

09-28-2009, 04:04 AM
I use my word processor count and round up. Agent Rachelle Gardner tweeted about this a few days ago and said:

Thanks. I'm going with that. :)

09-28-2009, 06:40 AM
Thanks. I'm going with that. :)Always check the agent guidelines. Some agents prefer word processor count, others prefer the 250 a page method, still others have a different system.

If they don't mention specifically you should be okay with word processor count.

Here's a thread that discusses this question (and also explains the reasoning behind the 250 a page method): Linky (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3749135)