Word Count Classification

A document or text’s word count indicates the number of words or characters that are inside it. A word count may be required for a number of reasons but namely, it is to control the amount of content that is allowed within a single text. A few examples of professional spheres that utilize word counts are academia, journalism, advertising, and legal proceedings. Translators also utilize them in order to price their translation orders. Word counts can also determine readability and typing or reading speeds, which are commonly determined by the number of words read or typed per minute.


The most common software with word counts are word processors, Unix systems, and wcs specifically for counting words. However, not all word-counting programs are created for the same purpose and largely depend on what the specific program defines as a word. For example, it is possible to select whether endnotes, footnotes, or hidden texts are counted. This option can greatly change word count results.

Fictional Works

While novels can vary greatly in length, the National Novel Writing Month states that novels that qualify for this competition must be at a 50,000 word minimum.

A more objective method would be to look at what the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America state constitutes different literature categories based on length in its Nebula Award categories. They specify the following:

  • A novel is generally a work that is over 40,000 words
  • A novella is from 17,500 to 40,000 words
  • A novelette is from 7,500 to 17,500 words
  • A short story is under 7,500 words

Nonfiction Word Counts and Length Specifications

While the average length of a bachelors or masters thesis can vary, the typical PhD dissertation is limited to no more than 100,000 words unless special permission has been granted.