Help:How to Count Words in Prose Fiction Titles

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As indicated in Template:TitleFields:Length, the ISFDB uses the number of words in prose fiction titles in order to determine their title type and, for SHORTFICTION titles, their length. When dealing with very short or very long works, the exact word count is not very important because it is usually clear that the work is a short story or a novel. The exact word count becomes important when works are close to the border between adjacent categories, which creates uncertainty.

For works available as downloadable files, the word count can often be determined by using the “Properties” feature of text editor programs like LibreOffice Writer, Microsoft Word or TextPad. If an electronic text is only available online or the file is locked using Digital Rights Management (DRM), the ability to determine the word count depends on the features of the software that can read the text or compatible third party tools.

For works whose exact word count cannot be calculated short of counting every word manually, estimates can be used. A common method is to count the number of words on one page and then multiply the resulting number by the number of pages. The process of determining the number of words per page can be further sped up by counting the number of words on N lines of one page, dividing the result by N, then multiplying the result by the number of lines per page.

When using this method it’s important to make sure that the sample page is representative of the complete text. Things to consider:

  • Pages with more dialog lines on them tend to have fewer words than pages with few or no dialog lines.
  • The first and the last pages of each chapter typically have fewer words than other pages.
  • Some books have blank pages inserted between chapters and/or extensive illustrations which can significantly reduce the word count.
  • Works published in magazines can appear on multiple blocks of pages, each block separated by other stories and articles.
  • Magazine pages can contain snippets of multiple stories and articles as well as cartoons and ads.

Other sources of word count information. Publishers and/or authors occasionally list the word counts of their published works online.

Historical note: Books published using the traditional US “mass market paperback” format historically had around 350+ words per page, which meant that the following approximations were useful:

  • 7,500 words: around 20 pages
  • 17,500 words: around 50 pages
  • 40,000 words: around 100 pages

With the proliferation of different fonts and page sizes in recent years, these approximations have lost much of their value.