Word Clouds

For all the word nerds out there, I thought I’d share with you my new favourite toy. It’s called Wordle. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a website that describes itself thus:

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

Sound like fun? Maybe not yet (unless you enjoy typography like me). But here’s where it gets really good: you can copy and paste your entire novel in there and in the blink of an eye you’ll get an analysis of which words appear most frequently. Here’s the word cloud for the junior fantasy novel I developed through the mentorship with Kate Forsyth, called The Black Luck Stone:

Pretty, huh? But it’s not just fun, it’s also useful. You can immediately see which words you use most in your work. The high use words in this novel are the character names (can you guess who my protagonist is?) and many words specific to the world I created (like wight, bloom and prophesy). But there are other words in there I find interesting. Like ‘face’ and ‘eyes’ – clearly character descriptors I rely on. But also ‘like’ and ‘around’. For this word cloud I turned off the appearance of common words such as ‘a’, ‘and’ or ‘it’, but looking at the frequency of those words can also give you a sense of which ones you over rely on. I’ve discovered I overuse ‘but’ and ‘then’ – something I never noticed before, but now that I have I realise it has the potential to drive others bonkers.

For comparison, here’s the word cloud for my junior adventure novel, called Harvey-Potamus Sid: The Not So Adventurous Kid:

Again, the character names are king, but notice any similarities? Eyes and face. Clearly descriptive vices of mine. Even if it doesn’t drastically change the way I edit, it has given me something to consider when I look over my work. And besides, it’s fun, and I don’t need a better excuse to Wordle around than that. Go on then – you know you want to.

Go and have a play

14 Responses to “Word Clouds”

  1. 1 Carol Warner February 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    What a wonderful toy! Thanks for sharing, Katherine. I had a little play and could see the benefits of using Wordle straight away with my WIP :)

  2. 2 Lynn Priestley February 11, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    It’s SO pretty. Thanks for sharing this. I’m looking forward to playing…

  3. 3 Michael February 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Well this is a relevant post for me. Just got a manuscript back from my editor. One of the things she pointed out was that I had used the word ‘like’ 46 times in the first 14 pages! I blame it more mainly on my narrator’s unique voice but perhaps it might be a tad excessive.

  4. 4 Tina C February 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Oh wow Katherine

    I love that – thank you so much for sharing with me. I just put in the first 2 chapters of a book and my most prominent word was: Know….mmmm in 1200 word I had used it 10 times… more than the characters name.

    This is going to be such fun – thanks.

    Bye 4now

  5. 5 Janet Shaw February 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Wow, this sounds so beautiful, and I wish I could use it. But being totally blind sort of rules that out! Luckily for me, my speech program on my computer has a similar feature which lists word occurrences in order of highest to lowest, so I use this constantly. Like you, I overuse the ‘face’ and ‘eyes’. From now on, I’ll picture my list of words in beautifully coloured clouds.

  6. 6 Karen Tyrrell February 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Katherine, Thanks for this post. I’ve Bookmarked the site already. You are so lucky to have Kate Forsyth as a mentor. I’m reading “Puzzle Ring” now and I’m loving it …Karen :))

  7. 7 Julie Nickerson February 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Ooh, I can tell I’m going to have fun with this. Good to see that the Harvey one didn’t show any leopards! Hee, hee.

  8. 8 Lynn Ward February 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I put in my latest chapter book manuscript. I wasn’t sure where to find the number of times I’d used a word – do I just count them in the Wordle? But I did love the pretty picture it gave me, lol.

  9. 9 Lynn Ward February 11, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Okay, I’ve found the word count – I was mesmerised for a while by the look of the words all jumbled up like that and didn’t even look for a tool bar, lol. The word count was interesting, I was happy that the only words which were right up there in the count were what you might expect such as ‘I’ the etc

  10. 10 Angela Sunde February 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    This is a winner, Kath. Thanks for this. Off I go to play!

  11. 11 Katherine Battersby February 12, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Glad everyone’s enjoying it as much as I do :)

    Michael and Tina – nice to know I wasn’t the only one overusing words!

    Janet – I’m glad to hear there is a program you can use, and I’m sure the word clouds you conjure in your mind are even more beautiful than the ones on our screens.

    Karen – so glad you’re enjoying the Puzzle Ring. Kate was a brilliant mentor, and a lovely person to boot.

    Jules – NO LEOPARDS! You proud of me? (for everyone else: Jules is my writing partner, and in this ms there is a wily jaguar who had an annoying habit of turning into a leopard in the first draft…)

  12. 12 Sheryl Gwyther February 12, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Oohh, this is so much fun, Kath! I’ve just done it for ‘Decibelle’ – so pretty and the colours suit the story so well. Going to have a little more play with it.

  13. 13 Katherine Battersby February 13, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Hope you found a screen grab program for windows, Sheryl…

  14. 14 oszukaj ruletkę gra progresywna February 4, 2011 at 1:19 am

    This is a winner, Kath. Thanks for this. Off I go to play! 0 brb

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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