A production manager at a book publisher e-mailed me this question a couple weeks ago:
How long of a word did Adobe use to determine the number of words in selected text frames?
Here’s a straightforward answer for you: They didn’t. Each word, regardless of length, is counted as one word. (You can change this in InCopy, but not in InDesign—more on that below). And in case you were wondering, hyphenated words are counted as one word, but em- and en-dashes are properly treated as white space separating words.
InCopy reports both of these stories as four words long:
So does InDesign (to see a word count in InDesign, click inside the frame with the Type tool and open the Info panel):
But as I mentioned, you can make InCopy do what the production manager thought it was doing all along: Use a specific number of characters to define what a word is, for the purpose of word counts.
To set it up, choose Define Word Count from Copyfit Info’s fly-out menu:
And then choose the radio button for Count Every __ Characters. The default is five characters, but you can replace that with any number you like.
When InCopy is set up to calculate a word as every five characters, you get radically different results—but perhaps more useful for actual copyfitting:
Once you change the setting in InCopy, it stays that way until you change it back, even when you open a different document, even if you restart the program. So if Copyfit Info is reporting a strange word count (especially if it doesn’t agree with what InDesign is reporting for the same story), check the Define Word Count dialog box to see which method it’s using.