Conflicting word counts between Scrivener and other programs

Okay, I have a bit of a weird one here…

For reasons that are way, WAY too complicated to go into here (without making myself sound insane/OCD/both) I am using three different programs to write my current w-i-p: Scrivener, yWriter (a database-based writing tool) and Microsoft Word.

For the actual novel text, I have basically copied and pasted the text of each scene/chapter in Scrivener into a Word document, and also into corresponding scenes/chapters in yWriter. So it’s exactly the same text in each version - no variations whatsoever. However, in each program I’m getting different word counts for the same scenes/chapters! yWriter’s word counts are usually fairly close to the Scrivener ones - there’s usually only 2 or 3 words difference between them and the biggest difference is only 9 words. But Microsoft Word varies wildly as to how ‘off’ it is - occasionally as little as 2 or 3 words, but mostly anything between 10-30 words. And it’s not even a consistent difference between the three programs every time, so it can’t be headers and footers in Word coming up in the word count, for example. I know 10-30 words doesn’t sound like a lot - but when it happens over every chapter it all adds up. Currently my cumulative word count totals up to Chapter 18 are:

MS Word: 45852 words
Scrivener: 45612 words
yWriter: 45575 words

…and that’s for exactly the same text, carefully copied and pasted (and double-checked.)

Thing is, I now don’t know which program to ‘trust’ as providing the real, correct word count. The only way to be sure would be to manually count each word myself - which I sure as heck don’t want to do! Is there anyone out there who could suggest anything that might be causing the anomalies? :confused:

Some WP programs count combination words differently, especially when using hyphens. One might count cross-sectional as one word, whereas another would count it as two. My guess is that MS Word falls into the latter category, seeing as it has the higher count.

Every program uses its own algorithm to determine what exactly is a word.

For instance, I work frequently with with time codes like this: 97:43.8

Scrivener counts that as three words.
Word thinks it’s one. says it’s three.
LibreOffice writer says one.
WinSorter thinks it’s one. doesn’t think it’s a word at all.

You just get used to it.

You could maybe just pick one program and go with whatever it says - or take the average.

Thanks for the feedback everyone - at least now I know, if nothing else, that I’m not going completely bonkers. :slight_smile:

I’ve got some date codes in my w-i-p, SarsenLintel, that are in a very similar format to your time codes, and probably a lot of hyphenated words as well. I think I’ll go with MS Word’s count then, since I’m going for a length of 100,000 words and the standard for a novel is between 80,000-100,000. And the count for Word is the highest, so that at least gives me some wiggle room if I need it.

Thanks again!

I’m not sure that publishers/editors need EXACT word counts, anyway. As long as you round to the nearest 1000, it should be close enough, and I doubt you’ll get any flak for it.

Excerpt from What Is A Word?

The whole thing’s pretty interesting.

Editors use word counts as a rough yardstick to estimate how much space the piece will need.

A 3500-word minimalist short story or a 100,000-word novel with lots of quick snappy dialogue might run many pages longer than an information-dense how-to article or a historical tome with long wandering paragraphs of narrative summary.

Even if you’re self publishing, word count gives you only a ballpark idea of finished length. A 450-word paragraph takes up less space on the page than 450 words of back-and-forth dialogue.

“You didn’t.”

“Did too.”



“You twit.”

Obsessing over exact word counts might be fun, for some folks, but editors are thinking only “somewheres near.” And figuring out, within the first three pages, whether they’ll need to cut you by 5%, 10%, or 20%.