Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Generating a Count of Word Occurrences.

Generating a Count of Word Occurrences

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 10, 2016)

As you are analyzing your documents, you may wonder if there is a way to create a count of the number of words in the document. Unfortunately, Word doesn't include such a feature, but there are a couple of things you can do.

First, if you want to know the number of times a specific word or phrase is used, you can follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  3. In the Find What box, enter the word or phrase you want counted.
  4. In the Replace With box, enter ^&. This character sequence tells Word that you want to replace what you find with whatever you placed in the Find What box. (In other words, you are replacing the word or phrase with itself.)
  5. If you are searching for individual words, make sure you click the Find Whole Words Only check box.
  6. Click on Replace All. Word makes the replacements and shows you how many instances it replaced. That is the number you want.

This approach works great if you just have one or two words or phrases you want to know about. You can automate the process a bit by using a macro to search through the document and count for you. The following macro prompts the user for a word, and then counts the number of times that word appears in the document. It will continue to ask for another word until the user clicks on the Cancel button.

Sub FindWords()
    Dim sResponse As String
    Dim iCount As Integer

    ' Input different words until the user clicks cancel
    Do
        ' Identify the word to count
        sResponse = InputBox( _
          Prompt:="What word do you want to count?", _
          Title:="Count Words", Default:="")
    
        If sResponse > "" Then
            ' Set the counter to zero for each loop
            iCount = 0
            Application.ScreenUpdating = False
            With Selection
                .HomeKey Unit:=wdStory
                With .Find
                    .ClearFormatting
                    .Text = sResponse
                    ' Loop until Word can no longer
                    ' find the search string and
                    ' count each instance
                    Do While .Execute
                        iCount = iCount + 1
                        Selection.MoveRight
                    Loop
                End With
                ' show the number of occurences
                MsgBox sResponse & " appears " & iCount & " times"
            End With
            Application.ScreenUpdating = True
        End If
    Loop While sResponse <> ""
End Sub

If you want to determine all the unique words in a document, along with how many times each of them appears in the document, then a different approach is needed. The following VBA macro will do just that.

Sub WordFrequency()
    Const maxwords = 9000          'Maximum unique words allowed
    Dim SingleWord As String       'Raw word pulled from doc
    Dim Words(maxwords) As String  'Array to hold unique words
    Dim Freq(maxwords) As Integer  'Frequency counter for unique words
    Dim WordNum As Integer         'Number of unique words
    Dim ByFreq As Boolean          'Flag for sorting order
    Dim ttlwds As Long             'Total words in the document
    Dim Excludes As String         'Words to be excluded
    Dim Found As Boolean           'Temporary flag
    Dim j, k, l, Temp As Integer   'Temporary variables
    Dim ans As String              'How user wants to sort results
    Dim tword As String            '

    ' Set up excluded words
    Excludes = "[the][a][of][is][to][for][by][be][and][are]"

    ' Find out how to sort
    ByFreq = True
    ans = InputBox("Sort by WORD or by FREQ?", "Sort order", "WORD")
    If ans = "" Then End
    If UCase(ans) = "WORD" Then
        ByFreq = False
    End If
    
    Selection.HomeKey Unit:=wdStory
    System.Cursor = wdCursorWait
    WordNum = 0
    ttlwds = ActiveDocument.Words.Count

    ' Control the repeat
    For Each aword In ActiveDocument.Words
        SingleWord = Trim(LCase(aword))
        'Out of range?
        If SingleWord < "a" Or SingleWord > "z" Then
            SingleWord = ""
        End If
        'On exclude list?
        If InStr(Excludes, "[" & SingleWord & "]") Then
            SingleWord = ""
        End If
        If Len(SingleWord) > 0 Then
            Found = False
            For j = 1 To WordNum
                If Words(j) = SingleWord Then
                    Freq(j) = Freq(j) + 1
                    Found = True
                    Exit For
                End If
            Next j
            If Not Found Then
                WordNum = WordNum + 1
                Words(WordNum) = SingleWord
                Freq(WordNum) = 1
            End If
            If WordNum > maxwords - 1 Then
                j = MsgBox("Too many words.", vbOKOnly)
                Exit For
            End If
        End If
        ttlwds = ttlwds - 1
        StatusBar = "Remaining: " & ttlwds & ", Unique: " & WordNum
    Next aword

    ' Now sort it into word order
    For j = 1 To WordNum - 1
        k = j
        For l = j + 1 To WordNum
            If (Not ByFreq And Words(l) < Words(k)) _
              Or (ByFreq And Freq(l) > Freq(k)) Then k = l
        Next l
        If k <> j Then
            tword = Words(j)
            Words(j) = Words(k)
            Words(k) = tword
            Temp = Freq(j)
            Freq(j) = Freq(k)
            Freq(k) = Temp
        End If
        StatusBar = "Sorting: " & WordNum - j
    Next j

    ' Now write out the results
    tmpName = ActiveDocument.AttachedTemplate.FullName
    Documents.Add Template:=tmpName, NewTemplate:=False
    Selection.ParagraphFormat.TabStops.ClearAll
    With Selection
        For j = 1 To WordNum
            .TypeText Text:=Trim(Str(Freq(j))) _
              & vbTab & Words(j) & vbCrLf
        Next j
    End With
    System.Cursor = wdCursorNormal
    j = MsgBox("There were " & Trim(Str(WordNum)) & _
      " different words ", vbOKOnly, "Finished")
End Sub

When you open a document and run this macro, you are asked if you want to create a list sorted by word or by frequency. If you choose word, then the resulting list is shown in alphabetical order. If you choose frequency, then the resulting list is in descending order based on how many times the word appeared in the document.

While the macro is running, the status bar indicates what is happening. Depending on the size of your document and the speed of your computer, the macro may take a while to complete. (I ran it with a 719-page document with over 349,000 words and it took about five minutes to complete.)

Note that there is a line in the macro that sets a value in the Excludes string. This string contains words that the macro will ignore when putting together the word list. If you want to add words to the exclusion list, simply add them to the string, between [square brackets]. Also, make sure the exclusion words are in lowercase.

If you don't like to use macros for some reason, there are other programs you can use to create word counts. For instance, the NoteTab text editor (the "light" version can be downloaded free at http://www.notetab.com) includes a feature that provides a word count. All you need to do is copy your entire document and paste it into NoteTab. Then, within NoteTab, choose Tools | Text Statistics | More. It presents an analysis of the word frequency, including percentages.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1833) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Generating a Count of Word Occurrences.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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