A fellow student on an online course I did last year with Lancaster University (and now a Facebook friend) introduced me toÂ Wordle. This is a bit of Java code that runs on websites (doesn’t seem to work with Firefox but works for me on IE) in which you paste in a load of text and it counts the frequency of words and then redisplays the individual words in a random order with the most frequently used words having the largest font size. They can come out very artistically and there are options on the site to play around with colours and formats.
I produced the above Wordle from the 2,550 words of my Chapter Three reading.
The most commonly used words like ‘a’, ‘the’ and contractions like ‘nt’ are removed by default. Sadly my extract seems to fail the literary fiction test as most of the words are pretty common — ‘looked’, ‘cash’, ‘think’, ‘hand’, ‘floor’. It allows analysis of the most frequently used words and the two that stand out for me are ‘sorry’ and ‘work’ — even though I edited a few of these out while redrafting there are a lot left. I think ‘sorry’ is perhaps good as it emphasises their awkwardness in initially meeting. ‘Work’ is understandable in two ways. I think the word must be currently something pre-occupying my subconscious and it’s coming through in both the plot and the character’s diction — James has obviously been fired but there’s a lot of reference to creating art as being Kim’s work. I’m perhaps reflecting on my own view of the novel writing process in this too?
I put the text of the first two chapters as well into Wordle so it had about 10,000+ words to work with. The graphic below is what resulted: rather sadly most of the words would be appropriate for a reading age of about seven years old– ‘might’, ‘something’, ‘table’, ‘street’, ‘time’ and so on. There are a few that set the location and characters: ‘paint’, ‘Shoreditch’, ‘carriage’, ‘London’, ‘vodka’. The very few there that seem to be interesting are ‘shoes’, ‘metal, the frequency of ‘looked’ Â and, perhaps my trademark word, ‘hand’. Fortunately ‘sorry’ doesn’t seem to recur too much in the opening two chapters.
I’d be fascinated to see the Wordles that could be generated by the work of others on the course — would they also be so full of ordinary words?
The less frequent words might be difficult to make out on the web graphics. Wordle can be used free by anyone for any purpose but it is subject to the creative commons licence which means that any representation of a Wordle must also credit the original website — which isÂ http://www.wordle.net/.