Word counting correctness
Thread poster: Fedor Drab

Fedor Drab  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 07:58
Member (2009)
English to Czech
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Oct 10, 2012

I have problem with stating word count in doc file. Using "Tools" and "Wordcount" I determined number of words in source file (afterwards checked this file in another 2 PC´s with identical results), but outsoucer insists, that this file has in his PC smaller word count. Is there any possibility, how to check and prove, what is correct? Thanks for advice. Fedor Drab

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Tony M  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:58
French to English
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Previous threads Oct 10, 2012

Hello Fedor!

This has been discussed at some length in previous forum threads, I suggest you might try a 'search' to find some of them.

Basically, the word count given by MS Word can be significantly different from that given by other tools, whether those be specifically word counting tools, or the utilities wuilot into CAT tools.

Ultimately, you may have to accept your customer's word count, though it might be worth finding out which application they are using to get it.

I have had particular problems in the past with documents converted from PDF files, where on one memorable occasion, the discrepancy was almost 100%!

You may find the only relaible solution is to take a representative section of the text and count the word manually, so as to give you at least an idea of where the discrepancy may be creeping in.

I have to say that extremely precise word counts are sometimes a bit of a waste of time / energy. I have had clients argue the toss in the past about small numbers of words, when the actual amount of money involved was a very small number of € / $ etc.

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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:58
French to English
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There's no such thing as a "word"... Oct 10, 2012

...or at least, there's no divinely specified, absolute, consensually adopted definition of what constitutes a "word".

So every tool you use to count "words" could basically be counting any old arbitrary thing. They will basically count sequences of characters between instances of some category of characters or points considered to be "word boundaries". But what exactly are the conditions of a 'sequence of characters' or a' word boundary' for such purposes is arbitrarily defined.

What this means, as Tony has hinted at, is that it is completely pointless arguing the toss about a handful of words. Any word count should be considered as having a tolerance of a few per cent either way.

Now... this generally shouldn't matter. The purpose of the word count is to help you make a *rough* assessment of the amount of work involved and agree on a price with the client.

If there is a *considerable* difference (say, more than 5% either way) then find out what tool the client is using and investigate the source of the difference (maybe one tool doesn't count footnotes or tables, or doesn't count "words" consisting of less than 3 capital letters or...). And for next time, make sure you agree on the *price* of the translation (or agree on the word count + rate) beforehand.

Some clients do seem to think that the word count is some kind of divinely-specified absolute value and that the difference between reported counts of 4327 and 4309 words is vastly important to the progress of humanity. So, for the sake of being practical and avoiding spurious arguments, you might just want to adopt a policy of always rounding down to the nearest 100 words, for example.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:58
Spanish to English
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Make your own rules Oct 10, 2012

To avoid petty quibbles like these, I simply state in my collaboration conditions that my rates are based on the number of (source) words as counted by MS Word. This method works for me.

PS: If the client is telling you this after you've delivered the work, I call this type of person a "chiseller" (a person who swindles you by means of deception or fraud).

[Edited at 2012-10-10 19:36 GMT]

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