A Word Count given a LaTeX File

The proper response to a word limit from an academic publisher is: Go fu fly a kite in a lightning storm.  However, since publishers are still clinging to the printed paper model and untenured folks are reluctant to play brinksmanship with editors who would cave in, we can find ourselves in the intellectually bankrupt circumstance of producing a word count for our manuscript.  Those of us who use a type setting environment, like LaTeX, are in a somewhat challenging circumstance, and generally root around online looking for posts like this one that recommend how such a silly metric might be produced.

At this writing there are several options.  You can install a user contributed package called wordcount.  I have not tried that.  You might use pandoc to convert the .tex file to a .docx format and then use the word count feature in Open Office / Libre Office / MS Office.  You can also download TeXcount. If you are a linux user you can do the following:

sudo apt-get install untex“ then “untex target.tex > count“, then “wc -w count“.

There are also some online options, including one for TeXcount, and two options for PDF files: Felix the Cat and Count Anything.

If your experience replicates mine you will get multiple values (often differing by a rather large amount).  What do do?  You could report the distribution, report the mean, or choose the low value.  I have tried each (in different circumstances).  Why?  When faced with a silly institution I like to respond with silly behavior.  But that’s me.



About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
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5 Responses to A Word Count given a LaTeX File

  1. mdwardlab says:

    I did some tests. Norway is the way to go.

  2. mdwardlab says:

    And, yes. Who really cares about word counts? Why not character counts? Bit counts? Or, even better, idea counts?

  3. But if the metric is idea counts, will journals enforce maximums, or minimums?

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