What the Heck is a Word Cloud and Why Would I Use One?

by Lisa Lepki Dec 12, 2016, 0 Comments

What is a Word Cloud?

If you haven’t tried ProWritingAid’s Word Cloud Gallery, get ready to have your mind blown.

What is a Word Cloud?

Google says a word cloud is “an image composed of words used in a particular text or subject, in which the size of each word indicates its frequency or importance.”

So, the more often a specific words appears in your text, the bigger and bolder it appears in your word cloud.

ProWritingAid has a Word Cloud Gallery that makes it easy to create word clouds based on the text you paste into the tool. Here’s what a word cloud based on the reaping scene in the first chapter of The Hunger Games looks like:

Hungary Games Word Cloud

Below are a couple other word clouds. Can you recognise the novels from their word clouds?

Or, if you are up for a challenge, try our Word Cloud Game. Guess 10 classic novels from the word clouds that they generate.

Why You Would Use a Word Cloud

Word clouds show you what is emphasized in your text. For example, if you’re a fiction writer, you can instantly see what words are used more frequently in your current scene. This can help you spot words that perhaps you’ve over-used or to make sure you’re focusing on the most important characters or other key areas in your scene.

If you’re a copywriter, a word cloud constructed from a blog post will show your frequently used words and help ensure you’re focusing on the SEO keywords you need.

Applications Where Word Clouds Work Well

For fiction, you can use word clouds of different scenes to compare how your characters feel about the inciting action. A word cloud will help you notice right away if your characters’ reactions are similar in both scenes. You’ll be able to identify where you should have a new reaction, a new emotion or feeling.

For business purposes, word clouds can help you find your customers’ pain points. If you collect feedback from your customers, you can generate a word cloud using customers’ language to help identify what is most important to them. Imagine if “long wait time” cropped up as major emphasis words in customer feedback. That should ring a warning bell.

Applications Where They Don’t Work

Simply dumping a scene from your current work in progress into a word cloud generator might show you that you used “said” a lot, but won’t give you the insights you want. But using word clouds to compare your scenes against each other can show you where they’re too similar, use too many of the same unimportant word choices, or simply aren’t consistent between scenes when they need to be.

Likewise, in copywriting for business, you wouldn’t use a word cloud when your content isn't optimized for keywords. A word cloud on a blog post that’s not SEO enhanced won’t tell you much about your keyword density.

How ProWritingAid’s Word Cloud Gallery Works

At the bottom of every page on ProWritingAid.com is a link under “Resources” called Word Cloud Gallery. When you click on that link, you get something that looks like this:

Notice at the top, you have options to “Create a Word Cloud” or search for the “Latest Word Clouds” by keyword. A sidebar on the right side contains popular tags to help you narrow your focus on already-generated word clouds.

When you click on “Create Word Cloud,” it brings up the following screen:

Simply copy and paste your text into the box or enter your url, and click on “Create Word Cloud.”

Here's what your new word cloud looks like:

Notice you have an interesting graphical representation of the words in your text, which you can customize by choosing a font, color, and layout. You can also re-create the word cloud with new text, download the image to your computer, or save it to the ProWritingAid gallery so that others can see and use your word cloud.

Final Thoughts

Word clouds are fun to use as a visual aid with blog posts to underscore the keywords on which you’re focusing. Your readers will notice the larger, bold words and understand their importance to your post.

And for fiction writers, word clouds are great to make sure you’re focusing on the right words in your prose. It’s also interesting to see some of the word clouds in the ProWritingAid gallery that other writers have created, especially those in the genre-specific popular tags in the sidebar on the right.

Try making your own word cloud here.

Play our Word Cloud Game here.

How do you see word clouds helping your writing? Let us know if you’re a fiction writer or copywriter and how you might use a word cloud.

Or if you’ve already created a word cloud on ProWritingAid.com, let us know what insights you gained from it.

In the meantime, happy writing!

If you enjoyed this post about writing a novel, you might also enjoy these articles from our archive:


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About the Author:

Lisa Lepki is the Editor of the ProWritingAid blog. A word nerd, she loves the technical elements of writing almost as much as the writing itself. She is the co-author of The Novel-Writing Training Plan and 20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers Her work can also be found on Writer’s Digest, bookbaby.com, The Write Life, and DIYAuthor. Contact her on lisa@prowritingaid.com.

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