Sunday, 26 October 2008

#49 – Gauging a word count

Or working out how long an on-spec article should be.

How long?
One of the comments left on a previous post asked what the best way to gauge how long an article in a magazine or newspaper is. If pitching to a new publication, this is important – there’s no point sending them something way over or way under what they usually take.

Ask the editor outright
This is something I’m pretty hopeless at. I’ll usually just ask the editor outright, but obviously this doesn’t work if sending an article on spec. After a while, however, you do start to develop the knack of guessing a ballpark figure.

The tedious process of counting
But if you’re not sure that you’ve developed that knack, there’s nothing else for it but to count. It’s a tedious process, but it’s the only way you’ll know for sure. Of course, if you don’t fancy counting word by word, it’s possible to get a reasonable estimate by counting the number of lines and multiplying by a rough average of words per line.
And if the columns are of roughly the same length, multiply average number of words per line by average number of rows per column by number of columns.

Any suggestions?
However, I’m more than open to better suggestions on this one. So if any readers have better techniques to suggest, leave a comment below.


Chris Klein said...

When I'm faced with the dilemma of figuring out word counts, I'll go first to the publication's web site to see if similar articles are posted online. If they are, I'll just cut and paste the text of the article into Microsoft Word and then go to the "Word Count" option under Tools to get the number. I've found that to be a time-saver many times in the past.

CBayma said...

If using MS Word, the writer may utilize the Tools menu and select Word Count. The statistics will be broken out by pages, words, characters (with and without spaces), paragraphs, and lines.