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A general format of counting the words while invoicing.
Thread poster: Mrudula Tambe

Mrudula Tambe  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
English to Marathi
+ ...
Dec 23, 2008

I am a freelancer translator and recently, I worked for an outsourcer who sent me 53 words to translate from English to Sanskrit and the rate was decided per word. I did the required translation same day and sent it along with the invoice.

After a week, I sent him a gentle reminder about payment and he replied that according to him, the word count is 20 as I counted the target words.

I told him the procedure to count the word in MS-word i.e. using tool menu and told him that 52 is the Source Word Count.

Then he said that I included pronoun, verb, conjunction, articles etc. while counting the source words which is an incorrect practice. I was shocked. Never in my 10 years translator’s life I came across the client who goes for word count as a noun count. I usually send the invoice counting the source words in word count and my client pays it trusting me.

Firstly, I thought it is merely a trick to avoid the payment but the outsourcer is not only senior translator but the PRO Level Member of He may not go for such cheap business conduct.

Later after many communications he paid me but I still have some questions in my mind. I hope that the people on this forum will certainly guide me in this regard.

1] Is it a general practice to exclude every single word which is not a noun while word counting?

2] If it is a regular thing, when it comes to large volume like 10,000 words, isn’t it difficult to remove the unwanted words?

3] Is it expected that an outsourcer should clear it first that he is going to pay only for nouns? I am asking this because in any language, even conjunctions are also important which could change the meaning of the whole sentence. If we avoid pro-noun, articles, conjuction while translating, the translation done will be utter chaos.

Please let know your humble opinion on this and also if you have any similar experience so that precaution could be taken while dealing with the client henceforth.

[Edited at 2008-12-23 14:58 GMT]


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:13
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
No way Dec 23, 2008

If the source language is English, all words are character strings separated by space. This customer just wanted to avoid payment.
Some software count numbers as words, some not.


Per Magnus  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:13
English to Norwegian
Invoice 52 words. Dec 23, 2008

Standard MS-Word word count (including text boxes, headers etc) is the de facto standard, because everybody (both translator and customer) have access to it. I have never heard of anyone in the industry that excludes pronoun, verb, conjunction, articles etc.; except for special agreements of course.

Whether you count source or target words is open for discussion and should definitely be agreed upon in advance (the same applies to numbers).


Local time: 09:13
Spanish to English
Never in the life !!! Dec 23, 2008

I have never heard of word count being based on anything other than the "properties" count in MS Word, when available. This includes ALL words, not only conjunctions and pronouns, but amounts, little buggers like USD etc.
To avoid discrepancies, I price by source word count as much as possible; this allows me the freedom to put as many or as few words as needed to clearly express the original, without any possible economic motive. I find this extremely helpful in SPAN ENG contracts and extracts of laws (where target may be higher) and notarized documents and court rulings (where triage results ina much lower target count).
The only exceptions are image files and ENG-SPAN, where I use target pricing.
But in all cases, the MS Word "properties" count (plus footnotes and page headers counted separately) is used.

[Edited at 2008-12-23 15:18 GMT]


Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tell them the words are for free ... Dec 23, 2008

... but what you charge for is the splendid orderliness you give them in the target language.



Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:13
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Dishonest Dec 23, 2008

Mrudula Tambe wrote:

the rate was decided per word...

Mrudula, to be brief, I would say this outsourcer is not the kind of person any serious translator should work for. Apart from the inherent dishonesty in their deliberate sowing the seeds of confusion in respect of how words are counted, they also wasted your time and caused you concern!

I have no doubt that your description of what happened is honest.

I would not work for that person again, and would help other users by giving them a negative rating on BlueBoard.

[Edited at 2008-12-23 17:15 GMT]


Nandini Vivek
German to English
Faced similar problem in the past Dec 23, 2008

My friend and I faced a similar problem in the past in my language pair where one agency refused to pay for common words like "a", "an" "and", "the " etc. when translating into English. Finally just stopped working for the agency - and never faced similar problem ever again with anyone else.


texjax DDS PhD  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:13
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
Brilliant Dec 23, 2008

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

Tell them the words are for free ...
... but what you charge for is the splendid orderliness you give them in the target language.

Simply brilliant!icon_smile.gif


FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:13
English to Hungarian
+ ...
I wonder Dec 23, 2008

... who would take the time to count the nouns in a 10000-word text?
Does this person use some software for this?

The whole concept is preposterous and the case itself is really odd. Why would anyone try to use dirty tricks like this and ruin their reputation to save $3? I almost think it was an honest misunderstanding. But then I think... verbs don't count as words??? Give me a break.


Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:13
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
Chapeau, Mervyn. Dec 23, 2008

[quote]texjax DDS PhD wrote:

[quote]Mervyn Henderson wrote:

Tell them the words are for free ...
... but what you charge for is the splendid orderliness you give them in the target language.

A most diplomatic way to put it, to be sure.

[Editado a las 2008-12-23 17:02 GMT]


Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:13
English to Serbian
+ ...
Even better... Dec 23, 2008

Just tell them the next time you will translate only nouns.icon_wink.gif


Cetacea  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:13
English to German
+ ...
Ridiculous! Dec 23, 2008

That's why it's called "word count" rather than "noun count": Because all words are counted. Or maybe it is because all words count...?icon_wink.gif

Actually, this is another good reason for me to charge by standard line rather than by word, even though I must admit I'd never have thought of it. What a ridiculous reason to give when trying to avoid full payment!


Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Local time: 08:13
English to Spanish
If he comes back with another translation job... Dec 23, 2008

Translate ONLY nouns, and omit pronouns, verbs, conjunctions, articles, etc. Maybe he'll be happier.



M Helena Ayala
United States
Local time: 06:13
English to Spanish
+ ...
You took the words out of my mouth Dec 23, 2008

Carvallo wrote:

Translate ONLY nouns, and omit pronouns, verbs, conjunctions, articles, etc. Maybe he'll be happier.


Or my fingers in this case.



Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:13
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Did you do this work for a Certified PRO? Dec 23, 2008

Hi Mrudula,

Always make perfectly clear to any customer how you've counted and how many words you've counted. Tell the customer in advance how much you'll invoice whenever possible. Only when you receive PDFs or other formats you can't count, or when you're negotiating with customers who prefer target word counts, you can tell them you'll do the final target word count in Word, Wordfast or any other tool you and the customer can agree on.

You're not making entirely clear if you'd agreed on a source word count beforehand. Never assume there is a golden standard for counting words, to answer your initial question.

If you're sure your customer is just being unfair/unprofessional, don't hesitate to use the mechanisms of this website to give him a bad rating, certainly when it's a Certified PRO. That whole system is meant for connecting reliable, professional business partners.


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