antique calculating machine with rows of number display dials and thousands etc. markers

Counting Words in Word

Word counts are used to plan layout (and marketing), to schedule the time it will take for various phases of development, editing and production, to estimate costs, and track our progress. They can also be used as place markers or reference points that aren’t affected by font and spacing choices.

Where to Find Word Count

There are, of course, a few places to find the word count for your document:

  1. The always-visible option is found at the bottom of the Word window. (See Fig. 1 below and troubleshooting at the end if that’s not visible.)
  2. The Word Count dialog (Fig. 2) via either the count in Fig. 1 or the Word Count button on the Review ribbon, in the Proofing group farthest left (Fig. 3).
  3. Document Properties (Fig. 4) from either the File menu or ribbon (depending on your operating system).
Fig. 1 Total word count can be shown always along the bottom border of the Word window.

Fig. 2 On the Review ribbon, this Word Count button in the Proofing group at the far left also opens the Word Count dialog.

Fig. 3 Clicking the count along the bottom edge of the window opens this dialog where you can see additional details and choose whether or not footnotes and endnotes are included in the count.

Fig. 4 The Statistics tab in the Document Properties dialog gives additional data such as paragraphs and character counts (which are particularly of interest to those working on technical materials).

What Is a Word and What Is Not

Consider the options and implications related to hyphenation, nonbreaking spaces, and math, text boxes, and more. This other post lists what Word counts as one word, two, or none at all. It also summarizes the differences in what various word processing programs count as a word. Not all programs count words the same way, but they’re close.


It may be good news that Word includes the footnotes and endnotes in its total word count. The frustration is that even Select All counts the words in footnotes unless that option is deselected in the dialog (Fig 3). That option will make it possible to get a separate count of the body text and the footnotes/endnotes for the purpose of planning layout, etc.

Right-click on a blank area of the bottom border to open the context menu shown here that will let you select what is displayed there. Note Word Count in the second grouping.

For more-sophisticated options for counting words, including counting a whole set of files at once or counting only words within quotes, check out Macro Man Paul Beverly’s free macros for editors resource.

Tune in next week for tips on finding the word count for where the cursor is currently placed—as in “word 116 of 243.”

Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the Q&A thread.

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Image by Stefan Wiegand from Pixabay

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