Do Footnotes Count in Word Count?

footnotes as part of word count

When you are writing an essay for a class which has a minimum of maximum word count limit, the question of whether or not footnotes and endnotes should be counted toward this limit can come up. Those who have an essay that is under word count are hoping that their footnotes and endnotes can be counted while those who are over the limit want to make sure that these don’t count. Which one is it?


Do footnotes count when doing a word count? No, footnotes don’t count in the word count in most cases. When a teacher or professor gives an assignment with a minimum or maximum limit, it’s usually done with the intent of being applicable to the topic being assigned. Footnotes are auxiliary information that further clarifies certain points being made in the essay. Since this isn’t a part of the body of the essay, most teachers and professors do not count footnotes as part of the essay’s word count.

This is a general rule of thumb. There can be exceptions depending on the teacher giving the assignment, so the best policy is to ask the person assigning the essay whether or not footnotes should or shouldn’t be included. If this is not possible, it’s best to assume that they are not counted.

Do footnotes count in a page count? Yes, footnotes generally count toward page count. Footnotes are found at the bottom of the page and don’t take up much of the page space in most instances. While it’s relatively easy to exclude footnotes from a word count, it’s much more difficult to exclude them from a page count. For this reason, most professors allow them to be included as part of the overall page count.

Again, counting footnotes as part of the page count is a general rule of thumb, not a definitive answer. It’s always best to ask the person assigning the essay to confirm that this is OK. If you find yourself in a position where this isn’t possible, in most cases it should be acceptable.


Do endnotes count in a word count? No, endnotes don’t count as part of a word count in most cases. Much like footnotes, endnotes give further information to a point made in an essay but aren’t part of the body of the essay. For this reason, endnotes are generally not included in an essay’s word count. The best policy is to ask directly if you aren’t sure about this, but when in doubt, it’s better not to count them.

Do endnotes count in a page count? No, endnotes don’t count as part of a page count most of the time. There is one significant difference between footnotes and endnotes which is endnotes are found at the end of the essay and not at the bottom of each page. Being at the end, it’s much easier to exclude them from a page count than it is to exclude footnotes. For this reason, endnotes aren’t usually counted when doing an assignment with a specific page count.

(Image courtesy of Lohan Gunaweera)

  • This is a bunch of BS. Why aren’t footnotes counted in word count? I’m writing those words. They didn’t just appear out of thin air. If I had to write them as part of the essay, then I feel they should count in my word count. Teachers are always trying to get us to do more work than they originally say. I’m sick of it!

    • Quit whining and write the amount you know you’re supposed to write. The only reason a person would consider counting footnotes as part of the wordcount of an essay is that they aren’t able to do the assignment on its on merits. You’re making this into a big ordeal because you just don’t want to write what the assignment calls for and you’re looking for a way out of it.

    • Although footnotes do have words written within them, they unfortunately do not count at all because they aren’t part of the actual essay writing. This may seem bad but it is how it works unless specified otherwise. If they counted, all everyone would do is footnote every sentence to up the word count!

  • I actually have a professor who requires us to count our footnotes as part of the paper’s word count. This drives me absolutely crazy. I don’t mind putting in footnotes in most of the papers I write but I hate to do it for this professor. I never have enough room to write everything I want anyway and when footnotes are counted as part of the word count it just means that I have less space to write the points that I want to get across.

    • Any professor who would require that footnotes or endnotes count as part of the word count just sounds like a lazy professor who doesn’t want to read the full amount that they are assigning.

  • I’ve never heard of the teacher who allows you to count footnotes or the bibliography in as part of the word count. That’s just ridiculous. The word count should be for the essay, not the parts that support the essay. Why would anybody think that they could include footnotes as part of their essay?

  • What if the teacher doesn’t give any guidance when it comes to including footnotes in the word count? Can I just assume I can count them? I need them to make my word count. If I count them and the teacher doesn’t allow me to, do you think she will mark down my essay if I say I didn’t know because she never said anything about it? I just want this essay to be over!

    • No. If you aren’t given any guidance as to whether or not you can use footnotes as part of your word count, you should assume that they are NOT counted. That’s the rule in most cases, so you should opt with what is most prevalent. The only time you should count footnotes as part of word count is it the teacher specifically says that it’s okay to do so.

  • I think that word counts suck anyway. So many times in school I had to go back and add filler words that just made my paper sound dumbed down. It was so much easier to write a good, precise paper, but teachers only seem to care about the quantity instead of quality. Ugh.

    • Or you need to look at the writing from different perspectives rather than from a single one. When students aren’t able to reach word count, it’s usually because they see the question to be answered as one-dimensional instead of from a variety of different perspectives from my experience.

  • I think this will depend on the teacher that gives the assignment because in some cases footnotes actually do count and in others they don’t but if it is not specified chances are they probably will not count.

    • Isn’t that what the articles just said? If your professor says footnotes and endnotes count, then you should count them. If she says they don’t, then you shouldn’t. If she doesn’t say anything, then assume they don’t count and ask to clarify if you have the opportunity.

    • Neither adds anything to the topic you’re writing about (just give information about where you got a certain statement of idea), so it doesn’t add to the essay in a informational way. Therefore, they should not be counted.

  • It would seem counterproductive to have footnotes and endnotes counted as part of the word count. The whole reason for them is to give additional information that you don’t actually want in the body of the article or essay. If you wanted them to be a part of it, you’d add a paragraph or two to place that information in directly.

    • This is the best answer here. Counting footnotes is actually counterproductive when given an assignment with a min or max. They aren’t a part of the actually assignment. They are an added addition in case you didn’t know something or needed more clarification.

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