Should I have to do my own wordcount?
Thread poster: Ciaran Quinn

Ciaran Quinn
Local time: 05:03
Spanish to English
Jul 12, 2012

I have done a translation for a company and have asked them for the wordcount (which will be difficult to do because of document type etc.) but they have asked ME to give a wordcount for the project I have just translated.
Is this normal practice?

Any help would bbe greatly valued, thanks!


Patrick Chalfine  Identity Verified
Member (2011)
English to French
+ ...
word count : a common practice Jul 12, 2012

Not only is it a common practice, but it is in your interest to know exactly how many words you translated. I agree that sometimes it is, for certain types of documents, a real headache.


Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:03
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
You can count the target text Jul 12, 2012

Well, at least you can accurately count the words in your translation. Microsoft Word can do that easily; CAT tools can probably all do it also, but interestingly, with slightly different results as they don't all have the same definition of "a word". If you know a typical ratio of source/target words (e.g. from your previous translations) you can then make a fair estimate of the word count in the source text, or use the ratio to help in calculating a price per target word, if that is acceptable.


[Edited at 2012-07-12 15:32 GMT]


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:03
Chinese to English
I get it quite a lot Jul 12, 2012

Some agencies aren't set up to handle Asian characters, so they ask me. Depending on what kind of text it is I either count the target and multiply, as Oliver suggested, or just do an eye-count (average no. of words per line times no. of lines).

Being able to quickly estimate wordcounts by eye is a useful skill.


Theo Bernards (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
It is in your own interest to do it yourself... Jul 12, 2012

...because it wouldn't be the first time that a client inadvertently misrepresents the wordcount. This is often offering assignments of for example 2000 words while in reality the wordcount approaches 3000. Pretty darn inconvenient if you are working under a tight deadline. Usually, my clients have no problem with the adjusted amount for the translation and if they do, they can have the assignment back.

Occasionally I run into assignments where the word count is much lower than indicated on a purchase order, and I tend to inform my clients if that is the case and adjust my invoice accordingly. After all, if they have underestimated the word count I adjust my invoice as well, it seems only honest that I would do the same if they overestimated the word count.

There are several useful tools available to do a proper word count, one name I read about often is Anycount, but I am sure there are plenty other tools. And, as Oliver mentions, you can use your own CAT-tool for a word count, but they tend to count differently. I find the word-count of my own CAT-tool hopelessly unreliable so I never use it.

With really obscure file formats I tend to estimate the amount of hours I am going to work on it, throw in a percentage for good measure and offer to do the translation for a lump sum (which is based on the hours plus the added percentage), half upfront, half on delivery. That seems to do the trick in so far that all of a sudden clients can produce a version of the text in Wordicon_smile.gif.

Btw, did you actually deliver a translation without having a fair good idea of the revenue it was going to yield (assuming that you get paid by the word)?


Nikita Kobrin  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:03
English to Russian
+ ...
I always do the wordcount Jul 12, 2012

Patrick Chalfine wrote:

Not only is it a common practice, but it is in your interest to know exactly how many words you translated.

Absolutely! I always do the wordcount myself even if the customer has already done it.



neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Try it on Jul 12, 2012

I think you'll find that if you make a wildly inaccurate count that is well over the odds, they'll soon tell you what they reckon it is...

No seriously, it's common practice, otherwise how are we supposed to know if we're being fleeced or - what's worse - fleecing ourselves?

BTW: I always do the word counts in my source language (Spanish) as 1000 words might only be 800-900 or so once translated into English.

[Edited at 2012-07-12 17:07 GMT]


Audra deFalco (X)
United States
Local time: 23:03
Italian to English
+ ...
Yes, yes, yes. Jul 12, 2012

Yes. Always do a wordcount as it's in your best interest to know exactly how many words there are in a document. Five minutes of your time might save you in the long run from a huge headache.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Either practice is normal Jul 12, 2012

Ciaran Quinn wrote:
I have done a translation for a company and have asked them for the wordcount (which will be difficult to do because of document type etc.) but they have asked ME to give a wordcount for the project I have just translated. Is this normal practice?

Well, if it is easier for the client to do the word count, then it would be common courtesy for them to do so. However, in this case they trust you enough to let you do your own word count (and feel that it is part of your job to do so).

I rarely check the word counts given to me by clients (with one or two exceptions, mostly where my client gets his word count from his client). That said, few of my clients are willing to quibble about word counts (unless we quibble beforehand).

If the type of file makes it difficult to do an exact word count, ask the client if they'd be happy with an estimate (and give them an estimate).


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
YES! Jul 12, 2012

How the heck do you expect to be able to issue a quotation and calculate a deadline?

OK, translation agencies tend to do that work for us and come up with proposals we can accept, reject, or modify, but any other kind of customer will expect you to give them some sort of quotation before starting the job, the same you would expect from any other professional you would hire in your life.


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:03
English to German
+ ...
Always do your own count Jul 12, 2012

Errors happen and clients make mistakes, too. Once the word count of a large website was more than 6000 words off. It turned out that a new PM was not familiar yet with the agency's software, and I didn't notice until I realized that I can impossibly meet the deadline and then and much too late did a word count myself. In another case, I was offered a project and noticed that the text length in the PDFs could impossibly match the word count in the PO. It turned out that the client's PDF conversion software had missed major parts of the text.


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