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Count Words Function

Count String Occurrence Function

In SQL Server, and I believe as well as in other databases, there's no built-in function that will return the number of words a given string contains.  Assuming that the space character separates each word, counting the number of words in a string can be performed using the following query on the given definition of a Health Insurance:

DECLARE @String VARCHAR(4000)
SET @String = 'Health Insurance is an insurance against
expenses incurred through illness of the insured.'

SELECT LEN(@String) - LEN(REPLACE(@String, ' ', '')) + 1

This query will return a value of 13, which is the number of words in the given string.  But if the words are separate by not just a single space character but by multiple spaces, then this will return an incorrect result as can be seen from the following:

DECLARE @String VARCHAR(4000)
SET @String = 'Health   Insurance'

SELECT LEN(@String) - LEN(REPLACE(@String, ' ', '')) + 1

There are three spaces between the words "Health" and "Insurance" and the value returned by the query is 4 instead of just 2.  The reason why it returns a value of 4 is because the query simply counts the number of spaces in the string and adds 1 to it.  So since there are 3 spaces between the words, the result becomes 4.


Solution

Here's a user-defined function that returns the number of words there are in the given input string.

CREATE FUNCTION [dbo].[WordCount] ( @InputString VARCHAR(4000) ) 
RETURNS INT
AS
BEGIN

DECLARE @Index          INT
DECLARE @Char           CHAR(1)
DECLARE @PrevChar       CHAR(1)
DECLARE @WordCount      INT

SET @Index = 1
SET @WordCount = 0

WHILE @Index <= LEN(@InputString)
BEGIN
    SET @Char     = SUBSTRING(@InputString, @Index, 1)
    SET @PrevChar = CASE WHEN @Index = 1 THEN ' '
                         ELSE SUBSTRING(@InputString, @Index - 1, 1)
                    END

    IF @PrevChar = ' ' AND @Char != ' '
        SET @WordCount = @WordCount + 1

    SET @Index = @Index + 1
END

RETURN @WordCount

END
GO


Description

What the user-defined function does is to go through each character in the input string.  It increments the word count variable (@WordCount ) by 1 every time it encounters a non-blank character and the previous character is a space (IF @PrevChar = ' ' AND @Char != ' ').  So even if there are multiple spaces separating each word, the word will only be counted once.


Usage

Applying the [dbo].[WordCount] user-defined function to the same sample string above, which is the definition of a "Health Insurance", the SQL query will look like as follows:

DECLARE @String VARCHAR(4000)
SET @String = 'Health Insurance is an insurance against expenses incurred through illness of the insured.'

SELECT [dbo].[WordCount] ( @String )

The output of the SELECT statement will be 13, the number of words in the string.

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