Word Count in Google Docs

Allison Dexter

Google Docs is an online word processor developed by—you guessed it—Google, with similar features to offline word processors such as Microsoft Word. Among one of the most used features in Google Docs is finding a page's word count and character count.

Learning how to use the word counter in Google Docs will make your writing process easier
Learning how to use the word counter in Google Docs will make your writing process faster.

There are a lot of reasons you might want to find the word/character counts for a written work, including:

  • If you’re a student writing a five-page paper but you haven’t formatted your document yet, word count can tell you how close you are to being finished.
  • If you're a professional making a slide presentation and want to stay within a certain word limit- not too many to overwhelm the audience but enough to pass on the essential information.
  • If you're writing an essay for a job application that requires a minimum and maximum word count. Letters of recommendation and cover letters also follow a word count standard.
  • If you're committing to write a certain number of words per day. Famous authors often did the same; Ernest Hemingway = 500 / day, Barbara Kingsolver = 1,000 / day, Stephen King = 2,000 / day, Anne Rice = 3,000 / day.

Although not as feature rich as a desktop application, you can also create a Google Doc on your smartphone or tablet and edit documents on the go. Compose blog posts, text messages or Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat posts to publish later—paying close attention to the character count. In fact, social media is all about character count, making the word count feature (which includes character count) an important tool when composing things like article headlines, professional titles on LinkedIn, profile bios on Instagram, Twitter posts, SMS messages and more.

Using the Word Counter

Whatever your reason for needing to count the words in your Google Doc, here’s a breakdown of how to do it. Depending on whether you're using a Mac or PC, or desktop, tablet or smartphone, there are a couple of different ways to open the word counter.

On a desktop/laptop, you can open the Google Docs' word counter using either the mouse or a keyboard shortcut. First, your document needs to be in editing mode. If necessary, you can change to editing mode by going to the right side of the toolbar. There you'll find a drop-down box that indicates whether you're "editing", "suggesting", or "viewing". Select "editing" if it’s not already selected. Please keep in mind that you can only select the editing mode on your own docs and those which you have been given permission to edit.

To open the word counter using a mouse:

  1. Click on the tab at the top of the page titled Tools.
  2. Find Word Count in the drop-down menu and click on it.

To open the word counter using a keyboard shortcut:

  • For PC users, press Ctrl+Shift+C
  • For Mac users, press Command+Shift+C

To open the word counter on an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet:

  1. Tap the Apps icon on your home screen (Android only).
  2. Tap the Docs icon.
  3. Tap on a document title to open the document.
  4. Tap the menu icon at the top right-hand corner of the screen.
  5. Tap Word count.

Using any of these options a popup should open displaying the number of words, characters, and characters excluding spaces. On desktops and laptops there is also a fourth field that display the page count for the current document (unfortunately this feature is absent on smartphones and tablets).

Counting Words in Selected Text

You can also use the word counter feature to find out the number of words in a selected portion of text. Again, depending on your OS or device there may be different methods to finding the word count.

To select text on a desktop or laptop:

  1. Highlight the text you want to get a word count for by left clicking the mouse and dragging the cursor. The text should appear inside a shaded box if you’ve selected it correctly. Release your mouse.
  2. Click on the Tools tab at the top of the page and select Word count from the drop-down menu.

The word count box will let you know:

  • Which page the selected text is on.
    eg: 1 of 3 means it’s on the first page of a three-page document.
  • How many words are in the selected text out of the total word count for the document.
    eg: 90 of 300 means the selected text contains 90 words out of a document containing 300 total words.
  • How many characters are in the selected text out of the total character count.
    eg: 540 of 5283 means the selected text contains 540 characters out of a total 5283 character count.
  • How many characters are in the selected text out of the total character count excluding spaces.
    eg: 466 of 5283 means the selected text contains 560 characters out of a total 5283 character count excluding spaces.

To close the word counter box in Google Docs click on the “x” in the top right corner or click on the “Close” tab in the bottom left corner.

Social Media, Blog Posts, SMS and Email

As mentioned in the introduction, these platforms all rely more on character count which can be found listed in the word count feature on Google Docs. Many people like to compose their posts in Google Docs and then copy and paste them on social media or their blog or send in an email or a text when they’re finished editing. Here are some helpful character lengths to consider:

  • Facebook
    By far the most generous of social media platforms, they allow for a total character length of 63,206. But the ideal status update length is actually only around 40 characters.
  • Twitter
    Allows for 140 character tweets while comments with a retweet get a limit of 116 characters.
  • LinkedIn
    Your Professional Headline has a 120 character limit while your Position Title has a limit of 100 characters.
  • Instagram
    Your Profile Bio allows for 150 characters.
  • Blog Post
    Ideal headline length is 70 characters while the ideal meta description length is 155 characters or less. The sweet spot for the actual post is somewhere around the 2,500 word mark.
  • SMS
    Text messages have a limit of 160 characters, though some services allow for character extensions of up to 1,000 characters.
  • Email
    40% of emails are first opened on mobile with that number expected to grow, therefore the recommended length of email subject lines is 50 characters or less.

Hope you've found these tips useful. Remember, you can always check your word count online with our easy to use tool. And if you enjoyed the article be sure to check out our sister post on how to use the word counter in Microsoft Word.