How to Do Word Count for Newspaper Articles

If you're writing a feature or news article for a print publication, you might wonder what it means when an editor tells you that they need 10 column inches or 25 inches. Newspaper pages are divided into columns, and if you are writing a story for a periodical, you should be able to offer a rough estimate of "column inches" by using the word count for your story and then gauging the words per column.

Calculate the number of words in the piece using the word count function available in most office productivity suites. In Open Office and Microsoft Word, you can find this under the "Tools" tab, and it is the fastest way to figure out your article's word count.

Estimate the word count if you've written your work out by hand. If what you've written is in a journal or on notebook paper, count the number of words in a row, and multiply that by the number of rows you have in your article.

Convert your word count to column inches by dividing it by a number from 35 to 40. In that case, a 500-word article would be roughly 12.5 to 14.25 column inches. These numbers vary because newspapers vary both in the size of the paper that they print on, as well as their column width.

Use the copy of the publication to verify your word count. Pick an article and use a ruler to map out a roughly 5-inch section. Count the number of words, and divide that by 5. That will be the rough number of words per column inch.

  • Word count and column inches are difficult to determine without using the word processor that the publication itself offers to employees. Paragraph divisions and other aspects of your story can add or subtract length from your story. If you are working freelance, offer the editor an estimate.
Items you will need
Article you wish to submit
Word processor or notebook
Copy of newspaper where article will publish
About the Author

Francis Matthews currently write SEO-friendly news articles for websites with topics as varied as military lodging, health supplements, car dealers and health insurance finders. Matthews has worked in corporate communications and as a reporter at a newspaper tasked with late-breaking news stories. He has a Bachelor of Arts in history and Spanish from Eckerd College.

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