That Pesky Word Count!

Writing a funding application can sometimes feel like a daunting task. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first attempt or if you have been writing applications for years, there will come a point when you just want a little bit of help.

I have written hundreds of applications, but every so often I will find myself ‘hitting the wall’, and at that point, I find it really useful to have a few tips and tricks to fall back on.

Many people ask me about the word count. That word count can prove very frustrating. Especially when you have misread it, and actually it is a character count! Even more annoying is that ‘ding’, that stops you in your tracks – and you have only written half the stuff you wanted to include. Don’t bother trying to change the font size. It doesn’t work.


1. Check that it is a word count and not a character count.

You will thank me for this!


2. Use Word to complete your first draft

Draft your answer in a Word document so you can use the word count, spell checker and grammar checker functions. When it is finished you can cut and paste into the form. Sometimes you can’t cut and paste. I still use a word document first, even if this means I have to retype the whole piece of writing. It seemed a bind at first, but now I find it a really good way to do a final proof. There are only so many times I can read my own work.


3. Think about your sentences

Take a typical piece of your own writing, it can be anything, but it must be your own. Work out your average number of words per sentence. There are a number of online tools, one that I particularly like the Count Wordsworth website, click here to view.

In fact this website has lots, and lots of useful information, but if you prefer you can also do this in Microsoft Word. You may need to go into your settings to enable all the functions.

You should now be able to see what your average number of words per sentence is. Ideally this should be around 15-20, but it’s good to have a mix of shorter and longer sentences.

So let’s say you have a target of 500 words. If you divide 500 words by 20, you get 25; so, that means, 500 words will roughly be about 25 sentences.


Have a good think about the question you are trying to answer, and then list 25 bullet points of information that you think are relevant.

You can then turn each bullet point into a sentence. Of course, you will still have to fine-tune it a bit, but this should help you in the right direction.

Let me know how you get on in the comments, or perhaps you have some nifty tips that you think could help other people.

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