Ignore Hyphens When Peforming a Word Count in MS Word


word logoA client recently sent me a query, wanting to know if she could somehow omit the hyphenated words when performing a word count in her document. I am sure she is referencing compound words in her document (i.e., son-in-law, built-in).

Actually there is no built-in way to do this in Word because a compound word is always treated as a single word (i.e., often-times is different than oftentimes).

There are three different kinds of compound words:

  • Closed form, (i.e., bullfrog, mailbox, snowball);
  • Hyphenated form, (i.e., son-in-law);
  • Open form, (i.e., attorney general, boy scouts, peanut butter).

So, for instance, if you looked at a sentence that said “My, son-in-law, Josh,” it would be seen as three words since son-in-law becomes one word because of its hyphenation. Once compound words are closed or hyphenated, they are seen as one word in a word count.

Should you have a need to treat compound words as individual words in your word count, the simplest way to do this is to search for the hyphens and replace them with something that will not affect your word count and once your word count is complete you can replace that something with your hyphens again.

Follow the steps below to learn how:


  1. Click Ctrl + H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click on the More button.
  3. Be certain the Use Wildcards check box has been selected.
  4. In the Find What area, enter the following:
  5. ( [ A – z ] { 2, } ) – ( [ A – z ] { 2, } )
  6. In the Replace With area, enter the following:
  7. \1 \2
  8. There is a space after the numeral one and before the second backslash.
  9. Click on Replace All.
  10. Close the Find and Replace dialog box.
  11. Display the Review tab of your Ribbon.
  12. In the Proofing group, click the Word Count tool to display the count of words in your document.
  13. You can also use your Status Bar to see the word count in your document. Just glance down at it.
  14. Click Ctrl + Z to undo the find and replace operation that you just did and your document will be back to the way it was.

The context in which you use a hyphen can affect whether your word is treated as a single compound word or two words.

Versions 2007, 2010

About the Author

Carol Bratt

Carol holds A+, MCP, and MOS computer certifications and is the resident DCT Office expert. She trains the staffs of small law firms in the use of Microsoft Office applications and has authored many books covering Microsoft Office as well as written articles for Infopackets, TechnoLawyer, and Digital Harbor. For more Microsoft Office tips visit Carol's Corner Office or follow Carol on FaceBook and Twitter.