Having gotten your word count, you might be wondering what use it might be! While a word limit is often more of a guideline than an actual rule (excluding legal cases, in which case courts generally take it very seriously!), following the guidelines is usually a good idea unless you have a very good reason for breaking said guidelines.
If you are currently studying, you might have seen your classmates increase the spacing and enlarge the font of their essay to make it fit a nicer number of pages. While this might seem like a smart idea to some, we live in an age of quantifiable data, and your teacher/lecturer will not be fooled by these efforts, especially since they will be getting a digital copy of the work as well! Like you, they can also use word-counting tools.
In general, it is best to try to fit within the word limit set by whoever gave you the assignment. Generally, going within 10% of the word limit, either above or below, will be your best bet. If you fall outside this range, you may expect your grade to take a hit purely based on word count alone. This can be mitigated if your content is exceptionally good. If this is the case for you, you might be interested in looking at our guide when it comes to manipulating your word count without actually changing the content!
In general, there is no exact word count you should aim for when writing a cover letter. However, it should never be longer than a full page, and you should use a 12-point font and good spacing. If you do write a full page with these rules, you will probably end up at around 250 words. A half page cover letter is usually considered the standard, so being below this word count will not hurt either!
CVs, like so many other things in our modern world, also have to fit within word count limits. This is because recruiters have to scan through thousands of these over a very short time, and very lengthy CVs will make them fearful of having to read it. On the other hand, CVs that are too short would seem like the writer did not make much of an effort.
While most recruiters will prefer your CV to be two pages long, this does not mean you can shrink the font down to an unreadable size and use no spacing! It used to be that recruiters would only read CVs on a desktop, or perhaps a laptop computer. With the advent of smartphones however, this has changed, as many recruiters like to read CVs in bed on their phone. This means that not only will you have to be very precise with your word count, you also need to ensure that your document reads well on a mobile screen!
In order to make your CV look nice on a phone, you will want to have relatively large text and good spacing, and almost all recruiters prefer a CV to fit on two pages. That comes down to between 550 to 700 words on average.
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While the Anglosphere shares many cultural ties, there are also plenty of local differences at all levels of society, and this extends to writing CVs. Here we will list the most common CV rules that differ by location.
In Australia, employers will only expect to see references in your CV if they ask for them. As a result, if you put references in your CV, you will be taking up space that could be used to expand on your experiences and qualifications. Aside from this, the same word count guidelines apply.
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In Canada, aside from the term change (they are called Resumes, not CVs here), there are no differences in CV/Resume guidelines when it comes to word counts. You still want to keep everything on two pages. It is important to not list references, as potential employers will expect you to have them ready if they require them. Of course, the structure and the content of the resume changes, but that is outside the scope of this website. You can check out the link below if you would like more specific tips.
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In the United States, your resume (again, not your CV, those refers specifically to jobs in academia), should fit on two pages, and use a font and spacing that is large enough to comfortably read on a phone. Aside from that, remember to use the American spelling of words, such as color or defense.
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In New Zealand, most (if not all) employers expect two references in your CV. This is in additional to all the standard CV requirements, such as good spacing, font size and fitting on two pages. This generally means that you will have slightly less word count available for use when it comes to the content in your CV.
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The most important rule when it comes to business plans is to stick to the concept of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). The easier your plan is to read and understand on paper, the easier it will be to execute. At the same time, you do want to have enough detail to fully flesh out your idea. A general rule of thumb is that you should be able to skim through your plan in less than 15 minutes. If you take the speed that the average college student can read at (300 per minute), then your guideline for a good business plan would sit at around 4,500 words.
Of course, this is not a hard rule that you must follow at all costs, as you must remember that a good plan will also include plenty of visual aids, such as diagrams, charts and other forms of data visualization to aid the reader in quickly understanding concepts. You may find that you can lower your word count by a great deal and still go into all your ideas in detail with the right visual aids!
Everyone knows that writing a book is creative endeavour, but for your first book, getting a publisher’s attention might require an author to follow a few guidelines when it comes to word counts. While this is not always the case, as there are many famous books, such as A Game of Thrones (approximately 298,000 words), War and Peace (561,304 words), and many others that are longer than average, using word count guidelines can be a good decision so long as it does not compromise the creative process.
The reasoning behind this is simple; all books, no matter the genre, will have a specific group of ‘natural’ readers in terms of age and interests. For example, you would not expect a picture book to have a large audience among fifty-year-old English literature professors. Picture books are often read aloud to children, so having a low word count would make more sense, as children generally have shorter attention spans, and the parents do want to get to sleep!
On the other hand, you have genres like Fantasy and Science Fiction. These genres typically appeal to older audiences, usually readers who are past their teens. In this case, your audience will have a longer attention span, and thus you can have a higher word count for your novel. While there is no real set length for these genres, for a first time author you might still want to stick to industry averages just to ensure that you do not scare your editor too badly. If you are already a successful, published author however, feel free to disregard any wordcount limits and write whatever you wish!
Like any other practical work, making your article fit the word count is important as it adheres to an industry standard that stands the test of time. While there are many different guidelines for word counts when it comes to different types of texts, such as original research articles, tutorials, reviews and many others, you can find the full list at:
When it comes to legal documents, both your client and judges wants a succinct document that clearly gets the message across. That is why the US Supreme Court has a rule called “Rule 33. Document Preparation: Booklet Format; 8 1/2- by 11-Inch Paper Format”, which is a full list of word limits for all relevant documents.
While the court also has page limits, you should not even think about using formatting tricks to get away with being over the word limit. A litigant tried to get around this limit by using 24 point spacing instead of double spacing in order to fit into the 25-page limit mandated by the court. That same court had another rule that required the document to be “double-spaced and in 12-point font with 1-inch margins.”
Although in the old days with typewriters, double spacing with a 12-point font used to mean 24 point spacing, modern word processors add even more room for double spacing. In the end, the litigant was fined $1,048.09 USD and had her name published in a legal journal for her breach of court requirements.
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Many, including John Mueller, who works at Google, claim that word count has no effect on Google’s search engine results. In their words, having the same word count as a top ranked webpage does not mean that you will get the same results!
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However, analysis of rankings does reveal a correlation between word count and page rankings. Please note that, as always, correlation does not equal causation. One could easily argue that the webpages with the “correct” word count also has content that is more relevant, which is why their page has a high rank. For those of you who are interested in what these correlations show, please read on below to find out!
For webpages where the information is always relevant (known to industry insiders as evergreen content), it has been found that a minimum of 500 – 800 words per page seem to be the optimal amount of text when it comes to websites with top page rankings.
When it comes to blog posts, you might want even more text; page rankings show that a blog post with a word count of between 1500 – 2000 words have the best results.
At the end of the day, Google says that you should be writing for the audience rather than the search engine, and that good results will come from user interaction. Their advice is that one should write enough to fully cover the topic, no more, and no less. Often times, research shows that a webpage that is written to meet word count specifications will drift off topic, and therefore be less relevant to users and perform sub-optimally when it comes to page rankings as a result. However, you could also argue that word counts are a way to target the proper audience. After all, it would be rare to find individuals who would be willing to sit down and read a 20,000 word blog post.
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There are many other use cases where there will be a word limit, from writing instructions to assemble furniture, to drafting up legal documents; there would simply be too many cases to list, and each one of them could be different. In the end, while you should endeavour to make your content as relevant as possible, staying within the word limit can help you communicate more effectively with your target audience, especially if your content is targeted at specific age groups.