Should You Use an Online Word Count Tool?
Three great reasons to move beyond your word processor’s built-in functions
Should you use an online word count tool? It’s an extra bit of software. And it can seem redundant, especially when Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Apple Pages offer a built-in function to track numbers of sentences and characters.
Plus, the ready-made word count function in your word processor is not only familiar but also mighty easy to use. You just click on that word count number on your document’s lower left bar or in Tools or Review at the top. Then basic word count statistics pop up including the number of pages, number of words, number of characters (no spaces), number of characters (with spaces), number of paragraphs, and number of lines in your document.
And if you enable your device’s Spelling and Grammar check, you can get additional readability stats, including a Flesch-Kincaid reading level score.
All of this is very useful when a project has a word count limit. But I decided to test a published post from my website to see if there was anything I missed by not using an online word count tool in the self-editing process.
What I found surprised me. Putting aside convenience, I’ve discovered other reasons to use a more robust word count tool. Online word count tools can help me simplify my content, improve its readability, and make it as appealing as possible to search engines with appropriate keywords. At no cost! That’s right … f-r-e-e.
1. Simpler language
Online tools give me more information about the words in my text: the number of short words (< 3 letters), long words (>7 letters), average word length, average sentence length, and the number of difficult words. I use this valuable information to replace difficult, long words and change sentence length to simplify the content.
2. Better readability
Built-in software reported that my blog post ranked at a 5.1 grade reading level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale — that’s a reading level of Grade 5, Month 1. It’s a good score when shooting for a maximum Grade 8 for online writing.
But wait. Other online word count tools showed the text’s readability at 7.7 (Dale-Chall), 7.4 (Gunning Fog), and 8.4 (Automated Readability). Those numbers drive me back to my text to see if I can streamline the syntax to make it easier to read. Self-checks like this allow me to self-edit more thoroughly.
3. Keyword density
Online word count tools count and list top keywords in the selection. This allows me to see which keywords I used in the text, how often I used them, and how to correct my content to include certain words more and eliminate ones that are too repetitive.
3 online word count tools to consider
There are dozens of free online word count tools. Here are just three. And as a bonus, they’re free. Their names are similar to one other but each offers different features. Just go to one of the apps, copy and paste your text into the text box, and the application returns its results right away.
- Word Count Tools: My fave. It counts words, characters, the number of characters without spaces, syllables, monosyllabic words, polysyllabic words, sentences, paragraphs, unique words, short words, long words. The tool also provides reading time, speaking time, and calculates your text’s readability using 5 different readability index ratings (including Flesch-Kincaid). And it gives you a list of the selection’s top ten 1-word, 2-word, and 3-word keywords and their frequency.
- Word Count Tool: This app counts the number of words, number of unique words, characters, characters per word, sentences, and an overall readability grade level. You also get a list of the number of times each word appears in your text.
- Word Counter: Use this app to count words, characters, and pages. It displays the top 10 keywords and keyword density of whatever you’re writing. It’s helpful when you’re doing SEO work.
It’s true that these apps are classified as “word count tools.” But with readability features and keyword density measures, it’s clear they go beyond a simple summary of numbers. Use them and your content will benefit from the added oomph, too.
Kathy Widenhouse offers tips and tutorials for writers at www.nonprofitcopywriter.com.
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