Counting text

Thu, 11/24/2016 - 21:19 Erika Baker

Counting TextIt’s not the most exciting topic, but it is one that frequently causes clients and translators to be at loggerheads.

How long is the translation you’re placing? How do you best count it?


This should be easy, but it’s surprisingly difficult.


Office programs


You’d think it was easy to just count words in any office programme, but it is a little bit more complex than just clicking on Review > Word Count or checking the word/line/character count in the status bar.

Depending on which version you are using, Word counts as a word everything that is separated by a blank space. But it does not count words in boxes or shapes. So if your text contains a lot of editable graphics to be translated, you may find that the count Word gives you does not include these.


You also have to make sure that Footnotes , Endnotes and Comments are included (or not) in your count.



In PowerPoint you can count the total words/characters in all slides including notes by clicking on File > Info > Show all Properties. If you want to count only the text in the notes, Office support suggest a complicated sequences for sending them to Word to count there!


The solution for Mac can be found here



Excel has no text count function. The quickest way to count all text is to open the file, save it as a .txt file and then open it in Word where you can count it.


Word counting programs

Because counting text and making sure that everything is included in the count can be tricky within Office applications and other software applications, translators often use one of a number of dedicated counting programs. The two most popular free programs are:


Total Assistant  provides a total word count, character count and line count for one or more selected files. It counts text in multiple file formats including  Word documents, HTML, Acrobat PDF, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel, text and more. 


Practicount works with Microsoft Word (doc, docx, rtf), Microsoft Excel (xls, xlsx, csv), Microsoft PowerPoint (ppt, pptx, pps), Corel Word Perfect (wpd), Adobe Acrobat (pdf), Adobe Framemaker (mif), HTML (htm, html, shtml), XML, SGML, ASP, PHP, Help files (cnt, hhc, hpj, hhk, hhp), OpenOffice (odp, ods, odp).


CAT Tools

Translators increasingly work with Computer Assisted Translation tools that also have very good Statistics functions. These don’t only count words/lines/characters for imported documents but also analyse how often the same sentence is repeated in a text. This is particularly helpful for technical texts where the same basic instructions appear time and time again and clients don’t want to pay for 100 repetitions of the same phrase.

CAT tools count comments but only if they have been specifically imported as text to translate.



Don’t forget, rule number one: if your translation is in a format other than Word, agree a basis for counting it in advance! It can save lengthy disputes about which counts are correct and why.