Microsoft Word: Quickly Access Global or Chapter Word Count

Writing in Ulysses, under macOS, it was easy not only to set a global goal for any project (the number of words or characters one wants to reach).

More importantly to me, it was dead-simple to quickly access a live word count — for the whole book, or for any specfic chapter, section or whatever (for any sheet or any group, in Ulysses’ linguo). That was very useful.

In MS Word, I don’t think one can set a goal or a target. But it’s easy to display a live word count nonetheless, be if for the whole book/file or for a single chapter.

In Word, look at that status bar at the bottom of the window. It should display a lot of useless junk and a live word count.

Total word count displayed in teh lower left of Word's status bar.

If you don’t see it, right-click anywhere in the status bar and check the Word count entry in the list.

Btw, while you’re at it, feel free to uncheck everything in this list you don’t need or don’t want to constantly see in your status bar. The ease of customizing Word’s look is one of the its most underestimated and underpromoted feature. I only use the live word count, the language tool, plus the different view modes and the Zoom cursor and even those last two I could probably get rid of.

Word count for a single chapter

For this to work, you need to:

  • Use headings Styles for your chapter headings — you know, Heading 1, 2, 3 and so on. See below for a tip to quickly apply those styles without having to waste time and focus using menus and sub-menus.
  • Have the Navigation pane open (you’ll find it in the View tab). It displays all your headings, on the left of the screen, like this:

Don’t mind my very customized Word appearance. On the left, there is the Navigation pane and, at the bottom, the status bar with the few items I want to see, including the word count.

Now, right-click on any heading in the Navigation pane and choose Select heading and Content. That will select all your chapter’s content and instantly updates the status bar’s word count to display the actual word count for the selection, next to the global word count of the entire file.



Bonus tip: quickly apply Heading and Normal Styles in MS Word

Using menus, even the contextual menu, to apply Styles is distracting and slow — once you discover there is a better xwy to do it, you realize what a waste of time it is. And what is this better way of doing it? Keyboard shortcuts, of course.

Word comes with a bunch of predefined keyboard shortcuts for some of the more essential Styles; And if you need more, you can always add your own too.

To apply any heading Style, put you cursor on the desired line and press Shift+Maj+right arrow once to apply Heading 1. Press it again to switch to Heading 2, and so on. Shift+Maj+left arrow to cycle in the opposite direction.

To remove any heading Styles, and to get back to the Normal (default) Style, press Shift+Ctrl+N.

And keep in mind you can create your own Styles and/or create your own keyboard shortcuts too.