Wordle: toy or tool?

I just began playing with Wordle, a web app that takes any text and turns it into a graphic ‘word cloud’, with each word a different size based on how often it’s used in the text.

I tried it out with a student’s essay comparing two WWI poems: Rupert Brooke’s ‘The Soldier’ and Wilfrid Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. Here’s what I got:

sample

It’s easy to pick out words that the writer uses too often: two, way, and think jump out at me. She overuses understand as well. She could improve the essay just by reconsidering each of these words and either omitting them where they are unnecessary or replacing them with synonyms.

(The app allows multiple versions of each ‘cloud’, with different colours, fonts, and arrangements.)

It would be interesting, as well, to “Wordle” a professional writer’s work and see what insights it offers.

Early verdict: Wordle is a useful tool for writers—a simple way to see at a glance where editing is needed.

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