To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up:
Wordle: A Nifty Little Tool for Writers
I stumbled across this program a while back and recently tried to recall the name because I thought it might be a useful tool for writers. Well, I was reading through the comments on Kristen Lamb’s blog (if you haven’t been there you must check it out) and, what do you know, there it was: the name of the program that had eluded me.
So, what the heck is Wordle?
Wordle is a program used to create word art from text. Words that occur more frequently are visually amplified (displayed in a larger font). While this makes for some pretty cool art (just explore Pinterest and you will find all kinds of creative art using Wordle), there are other benefits too. For example, you can summarize survey results to see the most popular answers or pinpoint the main idea of an online discussion.
I’m sure by now you can guess the benefit for writers. It will magnify the words used most often in your writing. This can help you find words you are overusing, like those pesky little adverbs!
After I came across the post with the reference to Wordle, I jumped on the internet to find it. You can find it here: www.wordle.net. You may need to enable JAVA applets in your browser (the website provides instructions), but it’s fairly easy to use. Just paste the text into the window and press the “go” button.
I pasted my MS into the application and generated the Wordle. I discovered that the main characters in my novel were the most prominently displayed words. The next largest word was “back.” Huh? Do I really overuse that word?
I toggled back to my manuscript and read back through the document. I glanced back and forth between my MS and the Wordle. I was puzzled. Okay, not really, just surprised. I had no idea I used that word so often. I went on a search and destroy mission and discovered that in all but a few instances the word was unnecessary. UNNECESSARY! Wow, what a helpful little tool.
I wondered what the Wordle of the work of a famous author would look like. Well, there was no way I was going to type War and Peace into a document but I did happen to have a digital copy of one of Tolstoy’s short stories. I pasted A Spark Neglected Burns the House into the window and waited for a visual representation. Here is what it looks like.
Hey, there’s that word again: “back.” It’s in yellow font next to Gabriel. It’s somewhat prominent in his story. I don’t feel so bad about my overuse, but don’t regret removing it either. I generated a few others for comparison purposes.
The Fiddler by Herman Melville
The main characters were the most prominently displayed words in all three Wordles. You can get a general idea what the story is about by looking at the remaining jumble of words. Okay, well, maybe not, but it looks cool! If anything it would be an artistic way to display your creative work once it’s published. 🙂