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How can I count the number of words in my document to be translated?

I’ve got a document which I’d like to be translated into French, German, Spanish and Greek and need some help.

I know you charge based on the number of words but how can I automatically count the number of words? It’s about 20 pages long and it will take ages to count them by hand and I haven’t got time as I’m in a hurry to get this done. Thanks.

Hi Kayla,

Thanks for your question.

As you’re in a hurry, the first thing I’ll say is simply email it to us at CustomerDelight@LondonTranslations.co.uk and we’ll count the words for you and give you a competitive quote for the translation in just a few minutes, free of charge and without obligation.

As we get asked about this subject often, I’ve provided some more information about how to count words in documents below

How to count the number of words in a Microsoft Word document

If your original document to be translated is in Microsoft Word format then you’re in luck as Word counts the number of words for you as you type.

Take a look in the bottom left hand corner of the application window and you’ll see a summary similar to the one below:

Picture of the number of words in a Microsoft Word document

Depending on the version of Word you are using, you might need to click on the “Enable Editing” button before these statistics will appear.

Move your mouse over to where it says “words”, click and a dialogue box with more detailed information will pop up.

Picture of detailed word count statistics

IMPORTANT: Tick “Include textboxes,footnotes and endnotes“, as otherwise text within textboxes will not get counted and your word count will be incorrect.

Counting the number of words in a PDF document

Unfortunately counting the number of words in PDF documents is not quite as straightforward as counting them in Word as the statistics do not appear automatically.

Before describing how to count the number of words it’s important to explain a bit about what a PDF document really is as there are several types.

PDF stands for Portable Document Format and, as the name suggests, is a computer file standard which is designed to be readable by any type of computer platform including PCs, Apple Macs, mobile phones and tablets.

PDFs can contain text as well as graphics and other objects such as tables required to produce great looking portable documents.

They also contain a number of security functions which make them great for business use. In fact, PDFs are so good that they have become the defacto standard for business documents.

For the purposes counting words, there are two different types of PDFs which must be considered; PDFs which contain text represented as text, and PDFs which contain text represented as graphics. Each is described in more detail below:

PDFs containing text represented as text

PDFs which contain text represented as text are produced when you use the ‘save as PDF’ option in packages like Microsoft Word.

When you hit the save button, the application produces a copy of the document in PDF format with all the text retained as font-based characters in the output.

The advantage of this is that you can open the PDF and then simply copy all the text from the PDF and paste it into Word and read of the number of words as described in the previous section by looking at the statistics in the bottom left corner of the Word application window.

BUT, and it’s a big but, many PDFs created this way are password protected which means unless you have the password you can’t copy text from the PDF into Word. Do not worry though, we have special software which allows us to get around this problem – simply email us the document and we’ll count the words for you.

Power Tip: If you’re using a PC open the PDF and press Ctrl and the ‘A’ key to ‘Select All’ then press Ctrl and the ‘C’ key to copy the entire contents of the PDF to the clipboard. Open a new Microsoft Word document and then press Ctrl and the ‘V’ key to paste all the text from the clipboard into the Word document – you can then read the statistics from bottom left corner of the Word window as above. If you’re using a Mac then replace the Ctrl key with the Command Key.

PDFs containing text represented as graphics

In some cases PDFs contain text which is not represented as characters using fonts but as graphics instead.

Before we can count the number of words in this type of PDF we need to convert the graphics back into text characters.

We use sophisticated Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software running on powerful computers to automate this process.

OCR software ‘looks’ at the graphics and attempts to work out which characters the pictures represent before saving the results as editable text files which we can then count using the Microsoft Word method above.

The most common situation where the text is stored in graphical form is when paper documents have been scanned.

Documents created in graphic design packages such as InDesign and Photoshop can also sometimes contain graphical text output which is why it’s easier for us to translate PDFs if you have the original files.

Using OCR software works most of the time however PDFs with security features are often not compatible with this method. Again, we have software which can get around this problem so please send us your original document and we’ll count the words for you free of charge.

Please note, word counts arrived at using OCR software are always subject to errors as inevitably some characters will not be recognised.

We therefore add a coefficient to the calculated source word count to adjust for these discrepancies based on results of our software analysis. This adjustment will always be present in your estimate so you can be sure that the price we quote is the price you’ll actually pay.

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