So you need to get a word count for the latest chapter of your novel or an essay assignment for school? Don't worry, here are three easy-to-use tools to count your words.
Why Count Words?
If you're an experienced writer, this might already be obvious to you. However, if you're new to writing, you need to know that keeping track of your word count is a central habit of a writer.
You count words for two main reasons.
1. Because Publishers Count Words
In school, writing assignments are usually measured by page length (e.g. please turn in a three-page essay on Jane Austen's use of satire in Emma by Friday).
However, measuring by page-length is inaccurate and, in many cases, unhelpful. Font, spacing, and formatting changes can alter the number of pages, and if you're writing a newspaper, magazine, or book, the pages will be in a variety of different sizes anyway. Measuring by word count, on the other hand, is consistent.
Furthermore, publishers often pay on a per-word basis, and so it makes sense for professional writers to keep track of how many words they write.
But what if you're not a professional writer? Why should you count words then?
2. Counting Words Can Motivate You
Many famous writers have kept daily word count goals. Ernest Hemingway is reported to have written 500 words per day. Stephen King writes 2,000 words per day, even on holidays. Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope wrote 3,000 words per day.
Setting a daily word count goal can inspire you.
One of the best known word count goals is NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month). Every November, thousands of writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in a month (that's 1,667 words per day, by the way).
Another resource for writers is my friend Jeff Goins' 500 Words a Day Challenge, which is a 31-day writing challenge that over a thousand writers have participated in.
3 Tools to Count Words
How do you keep an accurate word count?
1. Count Words With Microsoft Word
The most-widely used word processor makes it easy to count your words.
On Windows, there are two ways to see the word count. On the Review tab, just next to Spelling and Grammar Check, and on the home ribbon beside the page number.
On Mac, you can find the word count under Tools -> Word Count.
2. Take Word Counts to the Next Level With Scrivener
While Microsoft Word is a decent word processor for writing essays and articles, if you're writing a novel or book, you need a more powerful tool.
Scrivener is a perfect tool for finding your word count because it not only keeps your word count visible, it allows you to track your daily word count and the word count for your entire project. You can learn more about Scrivener on our review here.
To track your daily word count on Scrivener, go to Project > Show Project Targets (⌘++T, on Mac). This will open a popup that updates automatically as you type. Isn't that cool?
In Scrivener, you can set the project targets to your daily word count and track your progress. Also, notice the word count visible at the bottom of the application.
3. A Fast, Online Word Counter
If you don't have access to either of these tools, you can find, free online word counters. One of the best, in my opinion, is WordCounter.net.
Challenge Yourself to Write 1,000 Words Today
These tools can change your life.
How would your life be different if you challenged yourself to write 1,000 words a day? (Share that challenge on Twitter)
Even if you took the weekends off, in just a month, you would have 22,000 words. In six months, you would have written 132,000 words, easily enough for a long novel. After the first year, you could have written two books.
It starts by taking just a few seconds to track your words.
Do you have a daily word count goal? What is it?
Write 1,000 words today. Keep track using one of the tools above.
When you're finished, share your best 250 words in the comments section below. And if you share, please be sure to give feedback on a few practices by other writers.