Ask Daphne! What’s in a Word (count)?

April 11th, 2008 • Kate

CMG asks

Some writers measure word count based on their computers’ word count function. Others (mostly, I think, those in the romance-writing community) measure it based on the formula wherein 12 pt. Courier New + 1-inch margins + double spacing = 250 words/page. The difference in word counts can vary widely, especially in dialogue-heavy books. Which word count should I use when I query agents later this summer? I don’t want them to think that I’m inaccurately representing my word count.

Hi CMG! I think that formula worked pretty well when writers were submitting typewritten pages, laboriously copied — less so with today’s technology. Almost every word processing program out there has a simple “Word Count” tool, and that’s what I’d advise using.
Also, be aware that most agents don’t need to know the exact word count — 32, 415 words is pretty much 32,000 words, as far as we’re concerned. Feel free to round your numbers.

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