No matter what kind of writing assignment you’re working on, you probably know something about the length of the text you need. For students writing a term paper, the teacher may assign a page count. Novelists often receive feedback about word count from publishers. A journalist might be told the exact number of characters a newspaper has allotted for an article. Still, it’s not always obvious how you should translate from characters or words to pages. After all, the number of pages you complete depends on the formatting of your finished work.
For a term paper with standard formatting, it’s fairly easy to convert characters or words to pages. First, you’ll want to make sure to select default 1-inch margins within your word processor. You should use a standard font, like Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana, in a 12-point font size. Assuming you’ve made these selections, you’ll know the approximate number of words on each page, based on your line spacing. If you use double spacing, you should have about 250 words per page. If your document is single spaced, you can expect around 500 words per page. Typically, you’ll see 3,500 characters for every 500 words.
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Here’s a chart that shows what you can expect for single-spaced pages:
Now, if you’re writing a book, the number of pages in your manuscript won’t be the same as the number of pages in a printed edition. Manuscript pages, much like term papers, have standard document formatting. They’re almost always double spaced and run 250-300 words per page.
You can expect to see manuscripts fall in line with this chart, although it’s common to fit more words and characters per page:
On a printed and published book page, the size and layout of the book will impact the number of words that fit. Many books use either Garamond or Calibri font, size 10-14, although formatting varies considerably from book to book. Of course, illustrations, photos, and charts can significantly impact the total page count. Again, the number of manuscript pages won’t match the number of pages in the published book exactly.
Getting a Precise Word and Character Count
While the charts above can be helpful, especially as you begin a writing assignment and need to conceptualize how much writing you’ll need to do, they should be considered general guidelines. Individual writing styles vary. For example, we used a ratio of 7 characters per word. It’s common for people to use longer words; on the other hand, some writers prefer shorter words. The best way to determine a total word or character count for a block of text is to review it in your word processor.
Here’s how you can navigate to find the word count within different word processing tools.
Microsoft Word: Tools > Word Count
Google Docs: Tools > Word Count
Scrivener: Scrivener > Preferences > Editing > Live Counts
Pages: View > Show Word Count
Open Office: Tools > Word Count
How many words do articles have?
The length of an average article varies, depending on the publication. For example, The New York Times solicits opinion essays that are 400-1,200 words in length. Longreads regularly accepts features in excess of 6,000 words. As a good rule of thumb, try to match the word count to other articles published by the same magazine or newspaper. Anything that falls outside the range of the publisher’s previous work may be too short or long for publication.
How many words do books have?
The word count of a book depends on the genre. Here are some examples of types of books, along with typical word counts.
Young Adult: 60,000-90,000
Middle Grade: 20,000-55,000
No matter what your writing assignment entails, knowing how to convert word, character, and page counts will help you. You can pace yourself, keeping in mind how much space you have to make each argument. Whether you’re writing an 80,000-word mystery novel or a 700-word article, you’ll know how many pages you have left to write. Just remember to divide your total word count by 500 if you’re writing something with single spacing. Divide by 250, when you use double spacing.
The Word Counter is a dynamic online tool used for counting words, characters, sentences, paragraphs, and pages in real time, along with spelling and grammar checking.
Kari Lisa Johnson
I’m an award-winning playwright with a penchant for wordplay. After earning a perfect score on the Writing SAT, I worked my way through Brown University by moonlighting as a Kaplan Test Prep tutor. I received a BA with honors in Literary Arts (Playwriting)—which gave me the opportunity to study under Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. In my previous roles as new media producer with Rosetta Stone, director of marketing for global ventures with The Juilliard School, and vice president of digital strategy with Up & Coming Media, I helped develop the voice for international brands. From my home office in Maui, Hawaii, I currently work on freelance and ghostwriting projects.