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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Wordcounter: An Invaluable Tool to Prevent Repetition.


For comparison, here's the Wordle version of the same chapter
Described as a tool to spot overused words, Wordcounter is a website that allows you to upload your text and check it for repetition of words. Most writers have favourite words that they use, often without thinking. These are the familiar friends that get us past blocks and barriers. I frequently employ the same word when creating a piece and then change certain instances by replacing the word with synonyms when I do the editing. This makes for richer prose but allows the writer to construct the piece without having to stop the flow in order to come up with a new or different word. The problem is, or can be, that we are often not aware of those words we use frequently; they are so familiar that the brain skips over them when the editing process is under way. This is one of the reasons that professional writers always allow some other, preferably a professional, to edit their work towards the end of the writing process.

The sample I used for this exercise is the next chapter in my romantic thriller, which will appear tomorrow. I thought it might be a useful and practical way of demonstrating the value of the Wordcounter.

In this sample, which is 5,383 words long,  the word ‘just’ appears 25 times. I hadn’t come across this tool at the time of writing and, although the piece has been through 3 different edits by well-read and well-educated people, none spotted that overuse. Fortunately, many of the examples appear in dialogue, where it reflects the everyday usage of the speaker. However, there are other sentences or paragraphs where ‘just’ could easily have been substituted by ‘only’ or by a small change in construction.

Other frequent uses appear in three character names, which are instances where the repeated word will rarely be able to be substituted. By the way, when you use this tool, you’ll notice that the results are returned without capital letters. I’ve inserted capitals to make the demonstration clearer.  And the word ‘car’ is a star in this case simply because the chapter is set in a driving school situation.

So, a very useful tool and one I wish I’d discovered earlier. I’ll certainly use it for everything I write in the future. It has the advantage of being mechanical and therefore indifferent to a writer’s particular preferences. It spots those overused words and points them out with brutal efficiency.

I’d certainly recommend this tool and would like to publicly thank its creator, Steven Morgan Friedman.
You’ll see there are a couple of other tools available on the site. I haven’t yet tried these, but will do in the future and let you know what I find. Of course, you could always try them for yourself.

The text shown below is what appears on the website:

Wordcounter ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text. Use this to see what words you overuse (is everything a "solution" for you?) or maybe just to find some keywords from a document.
(New! - See the Political Vocabulary Analysis - to try to predict if a document has political leanings!)

Wordcounter is useful for writers, editors, students, and anyone who thinks that they might be speaking redundantly or repetitively -- and it's free! Eventually, I'm going to expand it so that you can upload documents, but not yet.

If you enjoy the Wordcounter, you might enjoy my new web page, Smugopedia - pretend you know better. It's smartly weird and funny. 
Top of Form
Enter the body of text here (to count & rank the word frequency):


Include Small Words ("the", "it", etc)? 

Use Only Roots (group variations together)? 

How Many Words should I list? 

Bottom of Form


Here are your results... 
Word
Frequency
just
25
I’d
21
know
20
Shirley
20
it’
19
you’re
18
sex
17
Tony
17
car
16
very
15
‘I
15
you’
15
I’m
15
Faith
14
case
14
don’t
14
go
13
test
13
time
13
back
13
went
13
look
13
down
12
take
12
one
12


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