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Mar 22, 2021

Using Word Clouds to Improve Your Writing and Marketing

By: Emily Michel

We have all seen the lists of no-no words. That, very, just, then, and dozens of others you are supposed to stay away from. But what about the ones particular to you, a quirk or ten you picked up over your many years of being human? And how do you even know you are overusing them if they aren't on someone's prefabricated list?

If you couldn't guess from the title, the answer is word clouds.

First things first. What is a word cloud? In brief, it is a tool to visualize the frequency of words in a document. The more you use a word, the larger it is in the picture. In the word cloud of this blog post, for example, words stands out. 

Here's an embarrassing example: In my current manuscript, I used one 295 times in 80,000 words. Although only 0.4% of the words in my book, it was repetitive. I used one when a or an would have been just fine. I kept saying one minute. Two minutes is a short amount of time, too. I even rewrote entire sentences or paragraphs, taking them from good to great, to avoid instances of one.

I have never seen one on anybody's list. It's a habit I picked up somewhere along the line. Other words in my top ten, such as eyes, face, and away, didn't show up on lists either. Eyes and face tell me I am using facial expressions to show emotions and ignoring the rest of the body. Away is often a helper word. Deleting away allows the action to take center stage, rather than the direction. 

Once you generate a word cloud, look at the top ten or twenty words on it. Run any that stand out, by sheer numbers or uniqueness, through the Find function on the document. Each time the word comes up, ask if your use of it is necessary, if you can rephrase, or if you must say it as written. Make your choice deliberately and not as a result of over-relying on filler words. 

How can word clouds help with marketing? Search for interesting or unique words occurring in the medium range or words used only once or twice, especially when they relate to underlying themes, tropes, or concepts. Think about how to use these words to market the book, and employ them in your title, blurb, and other marketing materials. Include the words as keywords when you publish, in your author branding, or merely as a jumping-off point for brainstorming. 

For example, I used memory nineteen times in my manuscript. One of the underlying themes is missing something you once had. My working title became A Memory of Wings.

You can search for word clouds in any browser, but my favorite generator is You can choose the shape of your cloud and download a spreadsheet if you're a numbers kind of person (hello, statisticians). Unlike many of the others, it allows you to upload a Word or PDF document rather than writing or pasting text into a box. has an added feature that groups phrases together instead of looking only at single words. Afraid you re-use the same phrase too frequently? This would be the word cloud generator for you. If you primarily use Google Docs, there is an add-on available. 

We're writers. Words are life. Use them well. 


About the author

As a former Army Brat turned Army Wife, Emily Michel called many places home before moving to Arizona in 2016 with her husband and two sons. When she's not petting her feline overlords or tapping the keys to her laptop, she reads, goes for walks, and dreams of a time when she can travel again. Visit her website at for news about her new paranormal romance due out in Summer 2021 and links to her Magic & Monsters trilogy.

Image courtesy of