What Are Characters in Writing Contest Entries?

How to Count Your Characters So Your Essays Don't Get Disqualified

Keyboard with a red question mark key in place of the J key
Which Characters Count Toward Your Essay's Limits?. Onur D?ngel / Getty Images

How Essay Contests Define Characters:

Characters are the basic building blocks of writing. Technically, everything you type is a character, including letters, numbers, spaces, and punctuation.

Whether you are composing a writing contest entry, a Google headline, or a tweet, the number of characters you use in your writing is important. So what counts as a character? Do spaces count? What about commas and periods?

Most of the time, spaces, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation all count toward a character limit. For example, if you are writing a tweet on Twitter, you will be limited to 140 characters, and everything you type counts.

Some writing contests may not count spaces or punctuation toward their character count. But if the rules don't explicitly state that some characters are excluded from the character count, I would count them all. It's better to trim a few letters from your entry than to be disqualified for exceeding the character count.

How Can I Tell How Many Characters My Entry Has?

If you're not sure whether your entry is under the allowed character limit, don't worry, you don't have to count each one by hand. Here are a few easier ways to count your characters:

  1. Use a Word Processor. Copy your entry into a word processor like MS Word. Then click on the Word Count feature to see the number of characters.
  1. Use a Free Character Counter. There are several websites that offer a free character counter, where you just need to copy-paste your text to check the number of available characters. Some even let you specify whether spaces should be counted or not. I like using LetterCounter.com, but you can do a Google search for "character counters" to see all of your options.

    When Are Character Counts Usually Used?

    Most of the time, short writing is limited by characters. Longer pieces of writing usually use a word count as a limit. For example, a 500 word essay would be about a single page long, whereas a 500 character essay would be about 100 to 150 words long.