While data visualization tools are common for numerical analysis, they are less common for linguistic analysis. However, a variety of tools are now available for creating word clouds. Word clouds visually display the words in a passage of text such that each word’s visual prominence is proportional to its frequency of use.
A word cloud is both
- An intriguing visual representation of a passage of text.
- A novel analysis of its rhetorical emphasis.
A discussion on ReadWriteWeb.com illustrates the usefulness of this analytic tool by comparing word clouds of various inaugural addresses. Below, for example, is a word cloud of Lincoln’s first inaugural (left) and his second inaugural (right). The difference in emphasis is dramatic.
If you are writing something important and want a quantitative, visual analysis of your emphasis, create a word cloud. There are numerous free online tools; my favorite is Wordle. The word cloud below is based on the — more mundane — text on this site’s home page. The picture is revealing.
If data visualization is a topic that intrigues you, see The Economist’s recent Special Report on managing data for additional insights.