March 28, 2012


Though we don't mean to, we inadvertently over-use certain words in our writing. We may be able to spot them in rough drafts but our habitual use of certain verbs or pronouns isn't always obvious to us.

In addition, writers occasionally fall into the trap of using passive sentences. One way to discover these pesky mistakes is to search for words such as "was" and "were." This technique works well for most passive phrases but I found another method of detecting deficiencies in texts.

A few years ago, a friend sent me an old DOS program called WordFreq. Since I do all of my serious writing in WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, this program is still an indispensable tool. It has saved me from sending out substandard work as well as shown me how often I've used each word.

But what can Windows users do to discover which words they've used too often? I Googled and discovered several dedicated freeware programs. The only drawback was that they all had spyware embedded in them. Then a friend directed me to NoteTab. Though this is a word processor program, it has the ability to count and display each word and how often it occurred in the text. The light version can even handle book-length manuscripts, as I discovered when I installed the software.

NoteTab's Text Statistics dialogue box displays more than the frequency of words. It provides the total number of characters, words, and the percentage of the document that each word occupies. You can also analyze part of the document by highlighting it, then using the Text Statistics menu item in the Tools tab. Additionally, the program calculates total usages of spaces and tabs. It also counts numbers and punctuation occurrences. If you use combinations of letters and numbers, as in postal codes, NoteTab can be set to count those as well.

This handy word processor is available from the NoteTab site and comes in two paid versions as well as the stripped-down freeware edition. Check the site for details.

1 comment:

  1. Bruce, I know the feeling of over using certain favourite words. As a reader, I find it jarring to keep finding a really wonderful word used more than once or twice. Third time even several chapters later and I'm thinking, what, you can't think of any other way to say that?

    So thanks for your reminder to watch for that, as well as for the resources available.


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