I've read posts from journal editors on Academia Stack Exchange that the first thing they do is check the word count of submitted articles.

How do journal editors check the word count of submitted articles, considering that authors may submit articles in pdf format with numerous tables and figures?

To check my own articles, PDFs produced in LaTeX, I open my PDF, select all, then copy-paste into Microsoft Word. This method overestimates the number of words since it includes all page numbers and all numbers inside tables, but I prefer it to TeXcount (http://app.uio.no/ifi/texcount/online.php) since it includes references and bibliography.

  • Convert pdf to doc etc...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 21:05
  • You say "I prefer it to TeXcount […] since it includes references and bibliography", but TeXcount will count bibliography items as well if you ask it to: just pass it the "-incbib" flag. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 22:39
  • We have often exceeded wordcounts (for abstracts and things like that) and never got a complaint. I guess this is only done if the overall length is too long (word count can be a terrible measure for length anyways). Usually pages is the count editors are worried about.
    – user64845
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 22:48
  • One way for the less tech-savvy: academia.stackexchange.com/q/102691/25112
    – user25112
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 5:11
  • I would think that editors are not interested in rejecting articles that slightly exceed the allowed number of words, so they don't need a really accurate count. A rough approximation is enough for what they really want to do: If a manuscript is far too long, then reject it for "greatly exceeding the allowed word count". Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 2:47

2 Answers 2


I suspect that in many cases where the authors submit a PDF and the editors do not use Linux (as may be the case in many disciplines, including most arts and humanities disciplines), that an exact word count may not be obtained. Instead, an approximate word count based on the length and formatting of the manuscript can be determined.

  • 1
    Count the words in 3 lines in different paragraphs, average, then times the number of lines...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 5:11

One way to do it is

$ pdftotext paper.pdf | wc -w

This command works on most Linux systems and what it basicaly do is convert the pdf to text then count the words.

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