The problem of word counting – Zotero and Word

I’ve just refreshed my literature review and am working on the final-final-final edit of my dissertation. I’ve also been double-checking my wordcounts, which are semi-automated. There was a slight glitch (nothing that is a game changer), so I’m making a note of the process that I finally found works. This is using MS Word and the Zotero plugin for referencing – if anyone reading this wants to reuse, please test it works with your set up before relying upon it.

A widely suggested idea is to create a separate ‘character style’ (not paragraph) called something like ‘references’ and change all citations and inline references to this style. This means they can be separately identified and counted by Word.

For the total word count, simply highlight all the text that needs to be included in the word count (ie exclude index, table of references etc) and see the total word count in Word’s display. Counting the citations and inline references that need to be deducted from the total is not so straightforward.

I initially imagined that I could just use Word’s styles pane to select-all ‘references’ (just highlight a piece of text that is styled ‘references’ and then select-all from the pane). But here’s the pothole. Although the Zotero inline references are marked up as ‘references’, they are not selected and counted. This is because as long as they are connected to Zotero, they are treated as updateable fields rather than text.

To get around this, save a separate copy of the document to work with (don’t mess up the original) and in the Zotero plugin, use the chain icon to unlink Zotero (there’s a warning that there will be no automatic updates in the document). Then follow the previous step to select ‘references’ and the correct number of words is returned to deduct from the total word count.

4 thoughts on “The problem of word counting – Zotero and Word”

    1. I’ve never used it but suspect the principle is the same. Test it on a 1 page doc so you can also easily count it.

  1. I always make a copy of my text, paste it into a separate document, then manually delete all the quotes, references etc., to get my count. I have also read on a Zotero forum somewhere that you should create a separate final copy of your document where you disable the Zotero fields – in other words turning those fields into plain text. I think the fields become slightly screwed up the recipient’s PC if their system is different to yours. Can’t remember the software reasoning though. I’ll try and find it and let you know.

    1. That sounds like a lot of work when going through several edits. If you mark up, only need to do it once plus check for anything new to mark. Yes, agree with saving out a separate copy with fields disabled for sharing. Otherwise, I think if recipient too has Zotero plugin it could cause conflicts/looking for lost connections.

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