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January 26, 2011

Combining NGrams and Worldle

Google recently came out with NGrams, causing a lot of excitement/stories in the media:
"Google used some of the data obtained from 15 million scanned books to build Google Books Ngram Viewer.

"'The dataset....weighing in at 500 billion words from 5.2 million books in Chinese, English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish. The Ngram Viewer lets you graph and compare phrases from these datasets over time, showing how their usage has waxed and waned over the years,'
says Jon Orwant, from the Google Books team."

I'm a huge fan of tools like these and this one immedietly made me think about Wordle, which I wrote up here.

But how would you use NGrams to improve your own writing? The answer is by combining it with Wordle.

Take the most common words from your manuscript and feed them into NGrams. I get something like this:

By looking at the Ngram results, you can basically see which of your words is more problematic than others--if a word is more common in the history of english fiction, you don't need to worry as much. The most common word here is 'like' so that means I don't need to worry about cutting down on its usage as much as I need to cut down on 'around,' 'turned', 'seemed,' and 'something.'

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