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Character Count

Character count is a relatively self-explanatory concept, referring as it does to the number of characters in a piece of text. The rise of computers surely contributed to the concept, however, insofar as it would be both difficult and pointless to manually tabulate a character count. Although it has some specialized uses, character count is generally far less commonly used than word count or page count.  

Definition

You have probably checked how long the papers you've written for school are; and in doing so, you would have come across the piece of information called the character count. 

The term character in 'character count' simply refers to the number of letters, and the count would be the letters that are present within a given written passage. Not to be confused with a fictional character in a literary work. For example, the character count of the term "character count" itself would be 14 (not counting the space). 

Examples of Character Count

For your benefit, here are a couple examples of the term character count being used within the context of real sentences. 

"The large ratio between the character count on the one hand and the word count on the other let the writer know that he had probably used a lot of big words within the paper." 

"The professor did not care about the character count of the students' final assignment; he only cared that the students filled up 4 whole pages, one way or the other." 

"Since the essay's requirement was based on word count and not character count, the student tried to use small words so that he could get the work over with as soon as possible." 

In case you are still a little confused about the meaning of the term character count, here are a couple rules for your reference. 

1. Except in certain specialized contexts such as blogs, character count is a relatively rare way to determine how much content has been produced by a writer. Page count and word count are much more common ways to evaluate the length of a given amount of content, and these are the ones most commonly used by almost all professors. 

2. There is some ambiguity over whether character count includes spaces or not. The Microsoft Word software, for example, provides two numbers for character count when the user requests this information: one number includes the spaces, and the other number does not. This usually doesn't cause problems, however, since most people are not interested in character count anyway.   

How to use

The term character count is surely related to the rise of the modern computer. When writing was still done largely by hand and/or by typewriter, it would have been ridiculous to ask anyone to actually report how many characters are present in any given passage of written content: the only way to determine the character count would have been to literally count the number of letters in the passage, one by one. It may be helpful in some formatting styles that require a certain amount of letters.

The modern computer, however, can produce a number instantaneously: all one has to do is highlight the relevant passage, and one will be instantly told how many characters are present within the passage. (This paragraph, for example, has 614 characters counting spaces, and 509 characters not counting spaces.)

However, even though it is now very simple to determine character count, this is still not a metric that most writers or professors really think about very much. This is for the simple reason that character count as a unit of analysis has little practical value. Page count is straightforward enough, and word count is valuable for controlling for irregularities in formatting. Character count, though, has no real use within most literary or academic contexts. Thankfully enough, if there is ever a time needed to do a character count, there are online tools to your rescue.

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