Don’t Let Google Docs Show Your Word Count

Google is introducing a live word counter into Google Docs in an update to its G Suite line of services. The tiny counter lives in the corner of your document, tallying off each word as you type.

On its face, a live word counter seems practical. It takes the guesswork out of how much more work you need to do to hit a specific word count. We’ve seen this sort of play by Google and other tech companies incorporating auto-replies into emails and messaging. Writing is arduous and annoying and a live word counter is a simple way to make it more efficient and productive.

But anyone who’s written anything longer than a 500-character Tinder bio knows that a live word count is actually a death sentence. Seeing word count numbers in real time will only hinder productivity, not enhance it.

Word count isn’t something that a writer needs live streamed. Whether you’re hammering out some late homework or flying in under a freelancing deadline, watching your word count go up as you write will only increase stress. As you begin writing toward a number, you start overthinking your word usage—not for content, but how they’ll factor into the final word count. Reaching that daunted number becomes a challenge, something you’ll constantly keep an eye on whether you can help it or not. It’s the equivalent of putting a clock on a fifth grader’s desk and asking them not to count the minutes until their teacher shuts up about long division and they can go outside for recess. It’s flat-out distracting. And it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. Anyone using Google Docs can view their current word count by simply clicking the ‘Tools’ tab (you’re welcome, by the way).

In all fairness, Google Docs’ new live word count feature is optional. For cover letters, resumes and even the occasional procrastinated term paper, it may come in handy. But for anyone tasked with writing on a consistent basis, it’s nothing short of a blight on all our existences. Let Google handle everything else, from your schedule to your spreadsheets. But don’t let them count your words in real time.