Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Friday, November 29, 2013

What's in a Word?

There are all kinds of techniques that we hear about at writers’ conferences and seminars about how to improve our writing and, sometimes more importantly, our appeal to readers.  One technique to determine if we over use a word is to highlight that word and see how often it pops out from the page.  With computers this has become much easier to do.  I remember seeing copies of manuscripts in the days before personal computers where writers would take different highlighters and work through their entire manuscript color coding different words.  It was colorful in so many ways.

Well, if you as a writer want to take this to a higher level, you can actually perform a textual analysis of your manuscript and better yet, of all your manuscripts if you so desire.  An article in the New York Times by Ben Blatt describes this process and how Mr. Blatt applied it to the Hunger Games Series, the Twilight Series, and the Harry Potter books.

Textual analysis is basically counting words and back in 1963 two statisticians used this process to deduce that James Madison was most likely the author of 10 Federalist Papers that had not previously been attributed to him.

This process can serve a number of purposes to include identifying repetitiveness in one’s writing but also the tone of one’s writing.  Mr. Blatt found that in the Hunger Games series the prevalence of words such as “intensely” and “electronic” gave the series a more technical dystopia tone whereas with the Twilight Series words such as “anxiously,” “unwilling,” and “unreadable” gave this series a more emotional tone.

The article by Mr. Blatt can be found at:

I found the matrices that he presented to demonstrate each authors most distinctive adjectives, adverbs and most common sentences used to be quite informative and I think you will too.


  1. I've noticed I tend to use the same words or expressions in more than one book.
    Maybe it's part of my voice.
    Morgan Mand