Saturday, 27 April 2013

Cloud watching - Lily Hyde

Cloud watching is a classic waste of time. But what if you’re a writer, and the clouds are made of words?

Word clouds are a nice waste of time for writers. There are a number of free programmes, like wordle, that allow you to break your texts up into different coloured and sized words and shape them into, for example, a map of the world. How pretty!

But it’s also pretty interesting and revealing to find out via these programmes, which highlight frequency of words, what words you over-use.

I’m a great lover of words in general, and long words in particular, and always expect an over-indulgence in my novels of ‘profligate’ or ‘disingenuous’. In fact, some of the words I use most often are ‘slightly’, ‘quite’, ‘little’ and ‘suddenly’.

These are such boring, half-assed words! I love to use lots of long descriptive words, and defend them vociferously against those of the Hemingway school of writing. But in fact, I clearly don’t have the courage of my convictions, because in my writing I am constantly qualifying them. ‘Quite disingenuous’. ‘Slightly profligate’ (Is it even possible to be slightly profligate? I think qualifying that word just renders it void).

Going back through my text and considering each over-used word allows me to really think about if I mean what I write, or if I’m just using words because I like the sound or the rhythm. In a lot of places, I find I can delete ‘slightly’ and ‘quite’. In other cases, I realise I have to tone down the adjective or adverb they are coupled with, because in fact it is not *quite* (there I go again!) what I mean.

 I will never write ‘slightly profligate’ again, and I will be less profligate with ‘slightly’. As for ‘suddenly’, I now loathe this word and delete it every single time.

Here’s the word cloud for this blog post, courtesy of ABCya. Hmmm, slightly (nooooooo!!) over-using the word 'words', methinks...

Who else enjoys word cloud watching?


Naida Willis said...

I love word clouds. My blogger for dummies book says you can get blogger to do it with your tags, but when I tried I crashed the whole system!

Andrew Strong said...

I really enjoed this, but wish I hadn't read it as I've spent the last twenty minutes feeding samples of my books into Wordle and other than characters' names etc, the word that I use more than any other is 'like'. I want to think this I because I use too many similes, but I doubt that.

Lily said...

Sorry, Andrew! (Only 20 minutes though?) Maybe it's time to switch from similes to metaphors...

Naida, I know you can do tag clouds with wordpress, but not sure about blogger