How to Include Word Count in MLA Format: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to writing an essay or paper in MLA format, one of the questions that often comes up is whether or not to include a word count. While it’s not a strict requirement, many instructors do request it. If you’re wondering how to add a word count to your paper, don’t worry—it’s a straightforward process. In just a few steps, you can easily include your word count in the header or footer of your document.

Step by Step Tutorial: Including Word Count in MLA Format

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to note that including a word count in MLA format can help your instructor quickly verify that you’ve met the assignment’s length requirements. It’s a small detail that can make a big difference in how your paper is received.

Step 1: Complete Your Essay

The first thing you need to do is write your essay. It seems obvious, but you can’t know the word count until you’ve finished writing.

Once you’ve completed your essay, you can use the word count feature in your word processing software to determine how many words you’ve written. This is usually found under the "Tools" or "Review" menu. Remember that the word count should include everything in your main text but not your works cited or reference list.

Step 2: Insert Header or Footer

Next, you’ll want to insert a header or footer into your document where you’ll place the word count.

To insert a header or footer, go to the "Insert" menu in your word processor and choose either "Header" or "Footer." This will depend on where your instructor has asked for the word count to be placed, or your personal preference if not specified.

Step 3: Type "Word Count: " followed by the number of words

Now that you have your header or footer, type "Word Count: " followed by the actual number of words in your essay.

It should look something like this: "Word Count: 1250." Make sure that this aligns with the rest of your header or footer, both in position and in font style.

After completing these steps, your essay will have a clearly indicated word count that adheres to MLA format guidelines. This not only shows your instructor that you’re attentive to detail but also that you respect the requirements of the assignment.

Tips for Including Word Count in MLA Format

  • Ensure that your word count only includes the main text of your essay, not the works cited or reference list.
  • Check with your instructor to see if they have a specific preference for where the word count should be placed.
  • If you’re using a word processor like Microsoft Word, the word count automatically updates as you type, so you can insert the word count before you finish your essay and it will be correct once you’re done.
  • Remember to update the word count if you make any significant edits to your essay after initially inserting it.
  • Double-check that your word count is accurate, especially if you are close to the maximum or minimum word limit for your assignment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the word count included in the text of the essay or separate?

The word count should be separate from the text of your essay, typically included in the header or footer.

Does the word count include the title and works cited?

No, the word count should not include the title, works cited, or any bibliographic lists. It should only count the main body of your essay.

Can I write "Word Count" in bold or italics?

It’s best to keep "Word Count" in the same font and style as the rest of your header or footer for consistency, unless otherwise specified by your instructor.

What if my word processor doesn’t have a word count feature?

Most modern word processors include this feature, but if yours doesn’t, there are online tools available where you can copy and paste your essay to get a word count.

Do I need to update the word count if I add or delete text?

Yes, you should update your word count anytime you make significant changes to your essay that would affect the length.


  1. Write your essay.
  2. Insert a header or footer.
  3. Type "Word Count: " followed by the number of words.


Now that you’ve reached the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of how to include word count in MLA format. This small but significant detail can help ensure that your paper meets the necessary requirements and shows that you’ve paid attention to your instructor’s guidelines. Remember that while MLA format doesn’t specifically require a word count, many instructors appreciate or even require it, so it’s always good practice to include one. By following the steps outlined above, you can seamlessly add a word count to your header or footer, adding an extra level of polish to your finished essay. With this task out of the way, you can confidently turn in your work, knowing that you’ve covered all the bases. Keep honing your formatting skills—they’re just as important as the content of your writing when it comes to making a good impression.

Get Our Free Newsletter

How-to guides and tech deals

You may opt out at any time.
Read our Privacy Policy