Collecting my attempts to improve at tech, art, and life

Counting Words in Blog Posts

Tags: ruby programming

I want to write at least 250 words per day. This is not a 30 day challenge. It is just something I want to do. I write more than 250 words daily when you count social network posts and chat text. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of those words were organized around a single idea?

I need some way to count those words, of course. The obvious solution is [wc](

$ wc counting-words.markdown
     106     464    3108 counting-words.markdown

The documentation tells me that the first column is the number of lines, the second column is the number of words, and the third column is the number of characters. I can train my brain to remember this, but instead I use the -w flag to get only the word count.

$ wc -w counting-words.markdown
     464 post.markdown

That is better, but it is not an accurate word count. I am currently using Jekyll for blogging, and every blog post file includes a section of front matter a section of Markdown content. My goal is 250 words of prose, not 250 total words. I do not want to count the front matter.

I could use assorted shell tools to accomplish this, but I would rather make a Ruby one-liner.

First I get the basic information I was already getting from wc.

$ ruby -e 'puts' counting-words.markdown

How do I separate the head from the body of the post? I could do some fiddly bits using ARGF.readlines with a separator argument, but I will keep going with what I have.

$ ruby -e 'puts^---$/).inspect' counting-words.markdown
["", "\nlayout: post\ntitle: Counting Words in Blog Posts\ndescription: Using Ruby to track my verbosity\ncategory: Programming\ndate: 2014-10-02\ntags: ruby\n", "\nI want to write at least 250 words per day. ..."]

How many words are in the body?

$ ruby -e 'puts^---$/)[-1].split.count' counting-words.markdown

I did say that I wanted my word count to be prose. I should exclude code blocks. That calls for a multi-line regular expression, stripping out the fenced code blocks in my post.

$ ruby -e 'puts^---$/)[-1].gsub(/^~~~ .+?^~~~ $/m, "").split.count' counting-words.markdown

I do not want to count link definitions either.

$ ruby -e 'puts^---$/)[-1].gsub(/^~~~ .+?^~~~ |\[.+?\]:.+?$/m, "").split.count' counting-words.markdown

This is good enough. Now I turn it into a bash alias.

# words in post / work in progress
alias wip='ruby -e '"'"'puts^---$/)[-1].gsub(/^(~~~ .+?^~~~ |\[.+?\]:.+?)$/m, "").split.count'"'"

Oh jeez those quotes hurt my brain. It was the first solution I came across to handle shell quoting, though. I may come up with something prettier. Perhaps a full script or looking for an existing tool. This will do for now.

$ wip counting-words.markdown

My one-liner ended up choking on some Markdown combinations, so I turned it into a tiny script.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

ignored_blocks = %r{
  (?: ^~~~ .+?^~~~ $)       # fenced code blocks
  |                         # or
  (?: ^\[ [^\]]+? \]: .+?$) # link definitions

puts^---$/)[-1].gsub(ignored_blocks, "").split.count

I needed that /x flag to make sense of my regular expressions.

Added to vault 2024-01-15. Updated on 2024-02-01