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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Word Counting Function For SAS

After some tinkering and toying around, I was finally able to negotiate the programming obstacle course known as SAS/TOOLKIT(R). SAS/TOOLKIT allows you to create user-written procedures, formats, informats and functions for the SAS system. I stuck to just writing a function.

The function is written in C and compiles to a dll file that you put into a SAS -PATH directory. Then you can use it just like any base SAS function. You do not need to have SAS/TOOLKIT in order to use the compiled dll file. So feel free to download the dll and use the function.

The dll file is hosted on my company site at

Save the dll file after you download the zip. You can either save it to one of your SAS -PATH directories or update your SAS config file. If you don't know how to (or don't feel comfortable) updating your SAS config file, just save the dll file to
C:\Program Files\SAS\SAS 9.1\core\sasexeThis is where SAS finds most of it's own modules so adding this one in shouln't hurt anything. ;)

Oh yeah, it only works with SAS 9.13 on Windows PC SAS. Sorry SAS 8ers. Sorry Unixers.

The function is named wcount() and it counts the number of words in a string. The syntax is:

int = wcount( string <,char> );

Where int is the number of words,
string is the character string you are counting the words in,
and char is an optional second argument to specify the word delimiter. The default delimiter is a space. Actually wcount() defines a space as any "white" space: space, tab, carriage-return, newline, vertical tab and form-feed.

An example:

data _null_;
wordCount = wCount('this is my test string ');
put wordCount=;

This would replace the following traditional SAS code:

data _null_;
* count the number of words in a string;
string = "this is my string of words";
wordCount = 1;
do while ( scan( string, wordCount) ^= '');
put wordCount=;

So, if you've got version 9 PC SAS and don't mind messing around a little bit, download the file and test it out. If you have any specific problems you can find my e-mail address in the readMe file included in the zip.


  1. Great function Stephen. Thanks for posting.

    John Munoz

  2. A simpler way to count number of words in a string:
    data _null_;
    /* to count the number of words in a string; */
    string = "this is my string of words";
    /*strip excludes leading and trailing include as per requirement*/
    /*countc counts the number of characters specified*/
    wordcount=countc(strip(string),' ')+1;
    put wordcount=;