Problem with Word Counts

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 24, 2013)

Want to see something interesting? Type the following lines into a Docs document:

One two three four
'One two three four.'
'One two three four'.

Make sure you type the lines exactly as shown. Note, particularly that the position of the period relative to the closing apostrophe is different in the last two lines.

Now, select each line, individually, and use the word counter tool to see how many words are in your selection. (To use the word counter tool, select the line and choose Tools | Word Count.) Note how many words are shown in each instance.

If Google hasn't correct this problem yet, you should get 4 words for the first line, 5 words for the second line, and 4 words for the fourth line. It appears that Google miscounts words when the closing apostrophe immediately follows a terminating punctuation mark (period, question mark, exclamation mark, etc.).

Why is this important to know? Because if you follow a style guide that says punctuation should be inside any enclosing apostrophes used to denote paraphrased text, you might be getting an erroneous word count—especially if you have a lot of such instances in your documents.

This problem doesn't occur, interestingly enough, if you use enclosing quote marks rather than enclosing apostrophes.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

The Last Business Day

Many businesses need to know when the last business day of the month occurs. This tip discusses several ways you can ...

Discover More

Removing Styles from the Quick Access Toolbar

Got something on the Quick Access Toolbar that you don't need there anymore? Here are two quick ways to get rid of that item.

Discover More

Connecting to an External Screen

Got a second monitor or projector you want to use with your Windows system? Here's how easy it is to take advantage of ...

Discover More
More DriveTips

Adding a Table of Contents

A table of contents is a great organizational tool, especially for longer documents. When you decide you want to add a ...

Discover More

Using Automatic Substitution

Using a tool called Automatic Substitution, Docs can quickly correct things you may incorrectly type. Here's the lowdown ...

Discover More

Spellchecking an Entire Document

Google Docs includes a few tools designed to help improve your writing. One such tool is the spellchecker, which you can ...

Discover More
Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 3 + 0?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)