Want to take a sneak peek at a website without actually reading it? Curious about the topics your favorite blogger uses most often? Here's a neat little tool you can use to form a word cloud from any text you choose. Jonathan Feinberg's Wordle page is easy to use and produces beautiful images, whose colors, shapes, and styles you can play with to your heart's content. I had used this a year or so ago, but I'm grateful to Anne Wainscott-Sargent for reminding me of it this morning.
The images are also informative. I created the one that appears above by typing in the URL of my blog, "Roundheads and Ramablings." The application takes all the words at that location, picks out the ones the author uses most often, and then arranges them in a pattern, with the most-used words in the largest print. This result is a snapshot of what I blog about.
So what can I learn from it?
Well, I suppose I should be pleased to see that my posts center around words and the English language. That is my intent, so I'm relieved to know that I haven't strayed too far off content. The next largest word, however, is "Just", which makes me cringe. One of the worst habits I have when I write is throwing in that unnecessary word -- just. It's a kind of verbal twitch--similar, I suppose, to that awful teenage habit of adding "like" before every other word.
I'm aware of this habit and consciously try to eliminate it from my books. I always run a "find and replace" search on a manuscript to be sure that every "just" refers to something that has to do with justice. But here in the blog? Obviously I've JUST been throwing the word around JUST as i always do. I guess I'll JUST have to make JUST a bit more effort JUST to get rid of the pesky word.
If you want to create your own cloud, go to http://www.wordle.net/ and click on the word "create". The page will give you a couple of options. I did mine by typing in my URL: http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/blog. The blog has an RSS feed, so everything from here on happens automatically. You can also choose a passage from one of your writing projects if you prefer. You can't really make a mistake, the service is free, and if you don't like the results, nobody else has to see them.
I did learn one important lesson as I experimented. You can save your word cloud as a PDF file, but it won't print as an image in many other programs. To put mine here, I had to open the PDF, and then save it as a JPG. Simple, once you figure that out.