Bids, tenders, requests for information and word counts…

I won’t go into the details (internal company stuff that shouldn’t be on a blog) but at the moment I’m working on a lot of bids, tenders, requests for quotations, requests for information, etc., etc.

I’ve done this sort of work before and it’s not a great fit for me but sometimes it has to be done. It’s my turn. But I hadn’t realised until recently why it is that I struggle so much…

Over the years, I’ve learned to deal with ambiguity; I’ve learned how to respond without having all the facts. I can write convincing copy (at least I think I can) and I can usually spell (despite a colleague suggesting yesterday that I should check a dictionary because “siloes” didn’t look right to him and maybe it should be “silo’s” – arghhh!).

It was my wife who pointed out to me that the very same attributes and skills that help me as an architect (general pedantry; taking the time to consider the various consequences of choices made; a desire to put in place controls to get things right and to do them well) hinder me in a high-pressure sales environment where I don’t have time to think and where everything is urgent/important and needs to be done NOW (or very soon after now)…

…and relax. Because it’s Friday night. And, in a short while, I will have a beer, or a glass of wine, in my hand.

Anyway, what is the point of this drivel? The ranting ramblings of an Architect? No. Ah, yes, word counts.

Counting words in a document – or in a cell in a spreadsheet…

Lots of bid responses are limited in the number of words that can be accepted. Often, the tool I’m using is Microsoft Word and it’s pretty easy to show the word count for a document or part of a document. Sometimes though, I’m using a different tool to create a document. Like Microsoft Excel.

I was working on a form of response that lists several skills and requires a response of less than a hundred words for each. Sounds easy? Maybe, but thirty 100-word responses are still 3000 words… and only having 100 words to detail experience can be limiting sometimes.

I needed a method to count the number of words in a cell of the spreadsheet and, as usual, I found the answer online:

=IF(LEN(TRIM(A1))=0,0,LEN(TRIM(A1))-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",""))+1)

Basically, this compares the length of a string with the length of the same string with all the spaces removed and adds 1 (for a single word with no spaces) or returns 0 if there is nothing in the cell (the TRIM function removes any extra spacing). It’s pretty crude but assuming no hyphenated words or solidi (oblique slashes) it will give a good enough count of the number of words in the cell. Definitely a time-saver for me…

Bonus tip

Excel does have a spell checker – it’s just not very obvious. Just press F7 (or go to the Review menu, then choose Spelling). This only works in the desktop client – not Excel Online.

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