We live in a quantifiable world where numbers are ever more important in our written work; in the reports we present, the blogs we write and the academic papers we labor over. They all have one important feature in common: the person who wrote them used word count. And since Microsoft Word is the most common word processing program in the world, that’s where you’re most likely going to be checking your word count from.

Do any of these scenarios apply to you?

  • Your teacher assigns a 500-word essay on the recent presidential election and you need to make sure you hit the required word count.

  • You're trying to find that happy medium in email length after a recent seminar warned that millennials don’t read long emails.

  • Your life revolves around mastering the 400-500, 600-700, 800 and 1,000-word blog post as a professional blogger.

  • You're always optimizing post length for Twitter (71-100 characters), Google+ (60 characters) and Facebook (40 characters).

  • Your publisher asks you to send them the first 10,000 words of your new novel, and you're not sure how much you've written.

  • You're applying to grad school and tasked with answering “Why Harvard/Yale/Princeton etc.?”, in 400 words or less.

  • You're filling out an online job application form that has a character count limit, and you want to make sure you sound hireable.

These and many other scenarios make it important to know how to find the word count in your Microsoft Word doc. Everyone needs to use the word count feature, whether it creeps up just once in a while or it’s the area where your mouse is most often found hovering over.

Many people are using different versions of Microsoft Word, but luckily the way you access the word count feature has remained relatively consistent throughout the various versions. Here’s a breakdown of the three most common ways you can access the word count feature on a Microsoft Word document no matter which version you’re using:

Using the Status Bar

The first way to check for the word count is to look in the shaded Status Bar at the very bottom of the page. On the far left you should see page count and a word count listed. If for some reason there is no word count listed, right click anywhere on the status bar to customize your editor. When you right click, a grey box will open with a list of features. Select Word Count and it should appear on your Status Bar at the bottom of the page.

Using the Menu Bar

A second way to find the word count is to click on the Microsoft Word tabs along the top of your computer screen. Please note that these tabs will only be available if you have a Word document open. If you’ve clicked away from your document to open a webpage or some other activity, you must click on the Word document again in order to have access to its tabs.

  • Click on the Tools tab.

  • Select Word Count.

A dialog box titled Word Count Statistics will open and display the number of pages, words, characters (no spaces), cahracters (with spaces), paragraphs and lines in your document. At the very bottom you can check a box to include footnotes and endnotes in the word count. If you don't want to include footnotes and endnotes in your word count then leave the box unchecked (or uncheck it). Click on the Close button in order to close the box.

Using the Ribbon Tabs

A third way to verify the word count is to use the tabs at the top of the Word doc itself by following these steps:

  • Click on the Review tab.

  • Click on the small arrow on the ABC/Proofing tab (on the far left).

  • Select the box displaying ABC 123 Word Count (on the far right).

When you select the box, the Statistics box (mentioned above) will open and list pages, words, characters (no spaces), characters (with spaces), paragraphs and lines. You can also check or uncheck the box to include or exclude footnotes and endnotes from the word count. Click on the Close button to close the dialog box.

How to Count Words in Selected Text

To find out how many words are in a certain part of your text 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. The Status bar at the bottom of the document should display the number of words in the selected text versus the total number of words in the entire document. For example 100/500 means the text you selected is 100 words of the total 500 words in the document.

How to insert the Word Count in a Doc

Often times a teacher will ask a student to insert the word count of their paper into their Microsoft Word document. In order to do this:

  • Place the cursor where you want the word count to go on the page.

  • Click on the Insert tab.

  • Select the Field option.

  • Under Categories, select Document Information

  • Under Field names, select NumWords

  • Click Ok

The word count should appear where you had placed the cursor on the page. Please note that if you make any changes to the document after you insert the word count, the total will not update automatically. To update it, right click on the word count you inserted and then choose Update Field from the dropdown menu.

A Word About Characters

Character count is being used more and more over word count. Social media posts and SMS messages are measured in characters rather than words and for anyone who’s ever filled out an online form whether it’s for a job application, a personal profile or a dating site profile can tell you, character count is the new word count. It’s another reason why knowing how to access word count is so important, because that also gives you the character count. Those who compose their posts, texts or responses in a Word doc first will need this feature.

Hopefully this post gave you the information you needed on how to use the word count feature in Microsoft Word. Remember, you can always check your word and character count online using our easy to use word counter. And if you also use Google Docs for writing on the go check out our other article detailing how to find the character, word and page count in Google Docs.

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