Thursday, December 13, 2007

Word Count is the Writer's Currency

I was listening to Michael Stackpole's seminar on Breaking Into Freelance Writing and one of the things he mentions (actually just a few sentences) is that writers use word count as a measurement. You don't use pages and based on my experiences in the publishing industry, I know how fickle page numbers can be: different typefaces and sizes, illustrations and photos, paper size and layout are all variables which alters the page count. Word count is indeed a closer approximation of how long an article, essay, short story, or novel should be although word count in itself is still imprecise (but it's the closest thing we've got). In some publications, they even pay you by the word so it is an important gauge any writer should familiarize themselves with. If you'll notice, a lot of submissions usually state word count to put limitations on the entries they're accepting. In some cases, specifications like margins, font and font size is indicated and that's perhaps the only time that it's acceptable not to give a word count of how long your submission should be. Notice that the latter is usually the practice in schools and universities, especially when it comes to term papers and thesis's. Nonetheless, I find word count to be a more accurate measurement, especially determining how long it takes me to write a certain project. Also, I find that word counts are less intimidating than page numbers. What most people don't realize is that a single 8.5 x 11 page of double spaced, font Arial or Times New Roman size 12 (typically the standard) is just around 300 words. Or a blog entry at around this length. Filling say, ten to twenty pages isn't that difficult. Simply imagine writing ten to twenty blog entries.

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