Unmitigated Word Geekery

Came upon this post recently that does a textual analysis of keynotes given by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell, comparing them point for point with (kinda arbitrary but still interesting) measurements of the hard words, lexical density, and Gunning Fog indices. It also comes with a cool lil’ tag cloud analysis.

What’s interesting is that the calculations seem to square pretty well with people’s general perception of the three. Jobs speaks in short, simple sentences that usually feature lots of superlative sales adjectives, like “cool,” “awesome,” “amazing,” and “unbelievable.”

Gates speaks with almost twice as many words per sentence as Jobs. He uses the words “terabyte,” “hardware,” and “server” enough times that they show up on his tag cloud. (They don’t for Jobs)

And, best of all you can do it for your own bodies of text. Tagline generator here and here, and text statistics calculator here.

For instance, Lucy Caldwell’s “Rushing to Rape” vs. the Sartre’s Existentialism is Humanism, after the jump

Rushing To Rape

19.34 words per sentence | 45.19% lexical density | 11.81 Fog Index | 10.28% hard words

Existentialism is Humanism

24.44 words per sentence | 45.02% lexical density | 13.78 Fog Index | 10.07% hard words

So you see, Lucy Caldwell’s work isn’t all that different than the work of Jean Paul-Sartre.

I’m thinking it would be cool to do a comparison of various webcomics at some point. Since Cat and Girl or Dinosaur Comics has got to be much more literate than, say, Penny Arcade. Infopr0n, anybody?

Apparently there’s a whole nerdy series of proposed formulas that purport to quantify the difficulty of a text. Check ’em out.


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