A fun writing tool

You know the old saying: A picture is worth a thousand words.  How about a picture of a thousand words (or more)?  That’s basically what you get from a “word cloud”–a visual representation of text, with the most frequently used terms getting the most real estate.  Here’s what Advancing the Story looks like in “word cloud” form:

At first glance, it looks like we’ve written more about newspapers than TV.  But the size of the word “watch” suggests that may not be the case.  One thing’s for sure: we’ve taken on a lot of different topics since we launched a year ago.

Creating a word cloud like this is a snap, thanks to a new free Web service called Wordle.  (Thanks to Angela Grant for the inspiration.)  It’s a fun toy, but it strikes me that it could also be a useful tool. How about plugging in a block of text–a news story, for example?  The resulting cloud could tell you something about your writing.  For example:

That’s a word cloud of my latest AJR column.  I think you can tell at a glance what it was about.  Try it with something you’ve written. What does the cloud say about your focus?  How about your choice of words?

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