Word count is the number of words a document contains; for example, a short blog post might have 250 words. The number of words an article, sentence, or report contains can matter for numerous reasons. Most word processors are capable of word counting, and free word count tools are plentiful on the Internet. Sometimes a word counter is simple and finds only the total count of a document, while other counters can also find the average number of words in each sentence and paragraph. The count of a document can vary slightly depending on the counter used because of the numbers, number-letter combinations, and symbols the developer chose not to count.
It is common for a document’s word count to vary when counted on two or more different counters. Some word counters do not count numerical digits, certain stand-alone symbols, or symbols attached to words. The variation in count is usually slight, but it can be significant if the document contains a lot of words, numbers, or symbols the counter skips.
Sometimes it can be useful to know the average number of words in a sentence or paragraph. Advanced word counters can find this number, as well as find the number of sentences in a paragraph. These features are beneficial when a writer wishes to keep aspects of the article under a certain number for better viewer readability.
Word count matters to people when they have a reason for wanting the word count of a document to be less than, greater than, or roughly around a number. For example, a student may need to turn in a paper that exceeds a minimum required amount of words. Non-academic reasons for paying attention to this metric exist as well, however. A writer may believe that a certain number of words is likely to keep a reader’s attention, while too few or too many may have negative consequences. Finally, some writers believe search engines rank websites more favorably based on the word count of their web pages.
The most common place to find a word counter is within a word processing program. Typically, word processors allow users to view how many words are within their document as well as how many words are selected. Furthermore, information such as the number of characters and pages is often displayed. In addition to word processor applications, some web pages are set up to give users information about this metric.