Wordle: My Favorite New Toy

by | Oct 28, 2009 | Writing Matters Blog | 4 comments

Wordle may not be new, but it’s new to me and I can’t stop playing with it. 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.” For word-loving writerly types, Wordle is irresistible. Not only does it take your words and make them look pretty, it displays them in a way that reflects their importance.

Here’s the word cloud Wordle generated when I input most of the content from our E-WRITE home page. I’m thrilled with it for a couple of reasons:

  • The words writing and content are huge, and that’s what E-WRITE is all about.
  • The cloud gave me insights into underlying meanings or emphases in my text. I didn’t realize that want, need, and needs figured prominently in my home page copy. I’ll have to contemplate this discovery for a while to decide what to do. Should I edit these terms out or celebrate the fact that they show up so often?


Other cool uses of Wordle:

  • Present survey data. About a year ago, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press asked voters for one word that best described the candidates for president and vice president. Pew used Wordle to display the survey results. Here’s the biggest Wordle word for each candidate: McCain – OLD, Obama and Palin – INEXPERIENCED, Biden – EXPERIENCED.  Interesting word clouds, especially in light of the election results! Check out Pew’s Wordle clouds at The Candidates: In a Word

— Leslie O’Flahavan

P.S. Thanks to D. Kokinda for turning me on to Wordle!

Tags: Visual display, Word cloud, Words

4 Comments

  1. Your Wordle looks great! What content did you use to create it? How much did you paste in?

  2. You might enjoy a recent post of mine in which I did a Wordle comparison of the conference speeches of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the leader of the opposition David Cameron – http://bit.ly/XtmlP
    – Cameron is widely regarded as a much better communicator than Brown, and the Wordle word cloud comparison brought out some interesting clues as to why this might be so.

  3. Martin, thanks for pointing me to your Wordle comparison of Brown and Cameron. I took a look – very revealing. With Wordle, is a picture worth a thousand words? How much is a picture made of words worth?

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