This took a little too long to procure and refine, so in an attempt to make it easier for future internet goers to find the Dale-Chall word list, we’ve put it into a text file and uploaded it here:
If you’re wondering what this post is about, you can read up on it here. tl;dr: it’s for the Dale-Chall readability formula – a formula which tells you how ‘readable’ your writing is.
Hey there! You might have found this word counting tool while you were actually looking for the word count in Microsoft Word. If so, here it is:
If you’d like to know how many clichés, words per sentence, syllables per word (avg.) or any number of other interesting statistics about your writings, jump over to Count Wordsworth.
Count Wordsworth can now give an estimate of the grammatical person of your text sample. It gives the estimate as 3 percentages – 1 for each person.
Using a small sample from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, we get the following:
36% First person, 24% Second person, 38% Third person
From this we might deduce that 38% of his novel is narration, and 62% is due to character dialogue. Silly deduction? Probably.
Let’s look at Wikipedia.
25% First person, 0% Second person, 75% Third person.
That’s from the article about words. This if from the article about cake.
0% First person, 0% Second person, 100% Third person
Obviously cake is a less subjective thing.
Have a play around with that, and while you’re at it, send us a suggestion for another stat (or improvements about the current ones) – there’s half a chance that we’ll implement it. Grammatical person was actually a user suggestion, and we’ve put it together and shipped it out within a few days, so if you’re itching to find the number of conjugated verbs or abstract nouns or past progressive monkeys in your text – let us know!
Yep, Count Wordsworth just acquired a neat new feature. You can now count the number of each word in your text!
We just tested it out on Genesis from the Christian Bible and we’ve got some interesting bible word-statistics for you:
- “he” is written 644 times, while “she” occurs 166 times
- “behold” occurs more commonly than “there”, “as”, “went” and “we”
- More than 0.1% (that’s a lot) of the words are “seven” – it occurs more times than “if”, “at” and “is”
And a copy/paste of the text statistics:
27.37 words per sentence
3.87 letters per word
155118 alphanumeric characters
25.31 words per paragraph
111.93 letters per sentence
48.04 syllables per sentence
1.76 syllables per word
70378 syllables, total
Interestingly, the ‘words per sentence’ is relatively high, while the ‘syllables per word’ is quite low.
Anywho, try it out, tell us what you think!
P.S. New features on the way very soon!
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be adding a ‘whole bunch’ of new word metrics to Count Wordsworth, as well as some fun little sharing tool so you can show your friends how close you are to finishing that essay. On top of that I’m looking to the idea of databasing the writing statistics of well known and classical writers and using the database to find a percentage-likeness for each classical writer and then showing you the top three (with their respective percentages). So that’ll be grand.
Things on the list to add:
- Characters per sentence
- Syllables per word (approximation)
- Syllables per sentence (approximation)
- ‘Share My Stats’-type button (via twitter)
- Some nice graphics
- General layout design
If you’ve got any ideas or feedback, you can get to me via email@example.com or via twitter @josephrocca.
In a hurry? Want the short answer? Scroll straight to the bottom.
As a bit of a science kid in middle school, I tended to stay away from writing as much as I could. When the time came for an essay, I really had to concentrate the full force of my illiterate mind on getting it done. Come hand-in time, I would usually produce something that I was quite proud of, and that got decent marks, but, the same critique always seemed to pop up: “Joseph, you’re keeping the reader on their toes for too long. You need to give them rests.” She was of course referring to my criminal sentence lengths.
Two main reasons should affect you into optimising your sentence length: The first is for achieving a smooth rhythm, and the second is to cultivate ease of understanding.
Rhythm is one of the most important qualities of a writer. It’s something that can take a long time to perfect and that can make a few simple sentences become animated in the minds of the reader. The central factor that creates rhythm is the length of your sentences. We’re not talking about the average sentence length here, we’re actually talking about the variation of the sentence length. If you vary your sentence lengths, you create the potential for rhythm. And now that you’ve got the potential, you just need to optimise and re-optimise until you find it.
The second result of efficiently and effectively choosing how many words a sentence should have, is increased understanding. Lengthy sentences can be really hard to understand because without pausing, the reader has to keep track of everything that you’re saying and link it with everything that you’ve said to try to maintain some context, but when the reader reaches about this point here, they start to feel that the information they’re trying to take in is a little bit harder to process because they’re not given any time to absorb each point that the writer makes, they don’t get time to ‘feel’ each chunk of information as it comes. The previous sentence tries to illustrate this concept (just in case you didn’t catch that). If your sentences are too short, you risk sounding like a 2nd grader and your writings may seem to be choppy and without flow.
In order to avoid marathon, comma plagued sentences, and tiny, childlike sentences we can look to the following tips for some guidance:
- Keep your sentences short, but not overly so. In the Oxford Guide To Plain English, Martin Cutts suggests: “Over the whole document, make the average sentence length 15-20 words.”
- Keep an eye on your rhythm. Sometimes a longer sentence is best, sometimes a shorter.
- Avoid using uniform sentence lengths.
- Your average word length can affect your ideal sentence length. Don’t try to fill your sentences with abstruse language, and the 15-20 words rule will hold.
Conclusion: How many words should a well-written sentence have?
As you might expect, there is no perfect. Try to stick to 15-20 words on average, big words will decrease this number, make sure to vary the length of your sentences.
Want to know the some info about your prose? You can calculate all sorts of statistics (including sentence length) by using Count Wordsworth. It’s a neat little tool that’s the best at what it does on the net.
The summing of words. Does that sound bland? Well, it shouldn’t, because there is pattern behind everyone’s writing. And if you’re finished counting the words, and have got a small moment to spend, you can look a little further, and maybe discover you’ve got the same writing style as a genius.
Count Wordsworth allows you to go a little further than the simple ‘Word Count’. He can count the number of sentences, the number of characters, your average word length, your average sentence length, the number of common clichés you used, your paragraphs (and their average word lengths), and probably other things as well.
Keep an eye out for new features and updates – the Count has only just arrived, he’ll need some time to settle in.
Here’s a quick sample of what he does best:
(based on his essay: ”The Advantages of Having One Leg”)