Ask Daphne! How Do I Count?

June 15th, 2009 • Kate

number_shoesAnother quick answer and more appropriately question-themed shoes for Laini, who writes:

I have a question that is driving me a bit crazy, as it’s kind of a make me or break me issue. Basically, I read a website, by a published author, on how to format your manuscript. She stated, “Calculate the word count the way editors still do, by multi­plying the number of pages in your manuscript by 250. Don’t worry about partial pages, how many lines are on each page, what your word processor’s word count is, yadda yadda. Just multi­ply by 250 and round up to the near­est thousand.”

What I need to know is if that’s true. See, the wordcount my computer is giving me and the wordcount I get from doing it her way are entirely different. Like 20,000 words different. Which could obviously make me or break me as far as whether or not my wordcount is too high. Does it matter which method I go with? If I use her method and then an agent uses the wordcount on the computer are they going to think I “lied” about the wordcount? If you could help me out with this I would really appreciate it! Thanks for your time.

Umm, who is this author, so we can tell her she’s off-base? Or to update her website? That information may have been correct years ago, but now, most editors and agents go by whatever word count your word processor tells you. Roughly.

Does Microsoft Word/Scrivener/your program tell you your middle grade manuscript is 26,435 words? You can tell me it’s 26,000 words — even 25,000. It’s close enough.

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5 Responses to “Ask Daphne! How Do I Count?”

  1. Karen Says:

    Whew! I was stressing this for a while because I saw that same formula for word count (might have been the same author's site-lol). Initially I had the courier 12 pt, underlining instead of italics all that, then one day I met someone who told me Times New was fine, actual italics would be okay and just round up the word count from whatever Word said. Glad I leaned that before I started submitting.

  2. beth Says:

    Daphne– Actually, that information is pretty widely spread around. I can pick at least two "advice" books from my bookshelf with that information on it–one of them even says specifically to "never trust the word count your computer gives you" and to use that formula. That book was published two years ago, true, but it's still floating around as an "authority" on formatting manuscripts.

    It's a good thing we've got agents like you telling us the real way of things! I have long since decided that very few "authority" books are anywhere near as invaluable as agent blogs like this one.

  3. Kate Says:

    When you think about it, two years ago, most agents and editors were still reading hard copies — now they read on eReaders like the Sony Reader or the Kindle. Page counts have become — at least for me — a secondary concern, if not something lower.

    As we progress, the simplest way or looking at something is found to be the best!

  4. Moth Says:

    See, I have the opposite problem. My word count is way too high with the MS count, and much more reasonable with the 250 words/page rule.

  5. Christie Says:

    I've heard this piece of advice, but I've also heard that it varies according to font type. I think it's 250 words/page for documents with 1" margins in Courier, but 300 words/page for documents with 1" margins in Times New Roman.

    This could be wrong, though. I tend to just stick with the word count I get from Scrivener.