How to write an academic paper using a “Word Count” system.

September 9, 2011

Start Your Document

You’ll want to keep everything you do organized in one document. Don’t worry about it looking messy as you write it. You can clean it later. Just make sure all the information, quotes, and references are stuck into one document. At the top of your document put an assignment description, class name, and due date. Now as you gather information, drop everything into this document. If you have Microsoft Onenote, you can use this to keep track of your research as well. Just don’t neglect beginning this crucial document that will evolve into your paper.

Know Your Word Count

The most important thing you need to do is get used to working with word count and not page length. Page length can be subjective based on font size, margin size, or number of footnotes. But word count is absolute. I have a simple formula for estimating the word count of a paper. It’s not always exact, but it is a bench mark accurate enough to plan your work. Use the following conversion table:

  • 1 page double spaced = 300 words. 1 page single spaced = 600 words.

Now that you have a word count for your paper, put this number beneath your due date. You’ll use this word count to measure your progress, so you’ll want to know how to take word count readings. In older versions of Word, you’ll find the Word Count function under Tools. This will count the words of a highlighted area or the entire document if nothing is highlighted. In the newest versions of Word, this tool is found under the Review tab. The newest versions of Word also keep a running tally of words in the bottom left corner of the window. If you highlight a selection, it’ll display the word count of that section like this 15/500, where 15 is the total words in the selection and 500 is the total words for the document. You’ll find the Word Count tool under Tools in OpenOffice. In WordPerfect, you may need to go to File>Properties, or in some updated versions you can find a Word Count tool under Tools. I don’t use WordPerfect, so I’m not sure. If you do, or if you use a program I didn’t mention, please leave a comment with the process for obtaining word counts. Get to know this process. It is a crucial key to writing a balanced paper.
Page 3 – Starting Your Paper –>