What Should Be My Word Count?

Wow. That’s a broad question. There are so many variables. What size page? What size type? What are the margins? Is the text justified? Do you hyphenate? Are there images? Are there other graphic elements? Single-spaced? Double-spaced? Does your copy use long words like “antidisestablishmentarianism” so common in more technical writing that take up more space? Or do you talk more about “cats” in your copy?

With that said, let’s look at a few examples to give you an idea of how many words to estimate when you’re writing text for a specific space.

The basic letter-sized sheet (U.S. letter):

A good general rule is a standard letter-size sheet with 1” margins all around using a typical font such as Times New Roman at 12pt type will hold about 500 words. And not surprisingly, a half-page of text in the same scenario would be about 250 words.

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This is a good starting place to give you an idea of what 500 words look like on a page. But really, the last time I typed something that looked like this was back in my college days (yes, way back then). So, let’s look at a few additional examples.

A print ad:

We all hope that our budgets allow for full page ads. But that does NOT mean a full page of text. If you’re writing a full page of text for an ad, you’re writing too much. And unless it is an advertorial in an industry-specific publication, your audience is not reading it.

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Taking a look at a fairly common layout, with a big, eye-catching photo on the top and accompanying ad copy on the bottom, how many words would you say this ad includes? The answer: 100 maximum. And yes, that does include any web site or contact information you’d like to include.

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And the word count shrinks quite a bit for smaller ads. This quarter-page ad? 40 words.

Documents:

There are so many different layouts, and so many variables, this question gets harder to answer. Here are just a couple of examples, however.

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The one-pager. Contrary to what we said above, a one-page document these days will not likely hold 500 words on the page. Once headlines, imagery, and formatting are accounted for, a word-count of about 250 words will work much better in the space available.

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Simple tri-fold brochure. A standard-size trifold brochure (i.e. take a letter-size sheet and letterfold it) might hold 350 word at a maximum.

Tip

If you are providing copy to your designer, you can ask them for a word estimate.

What you can see from these examples is that a one-page document rarely means a page of text anymore.

If your design and copy are developed together, they should work fairly seamlessly. But, ultimately, the ideal word count will depend on the design, your message, and the type of document you are creating.