Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year in Words, or I Thought There'd Be More Dinosaurs

Happy Almost 2016! I feel like 2015 has gone by ridiculously fast. I guess people always say that when a new year is approaching but I really mean it; I don't know where this year has gone BUT I'm not sad to see it go. 2015 was a rough year, mostly professionally, for me so I'm more than ready to get 2016 going. I have a good-ish feeling about this year.

But before 2016 dawns, it's time to take a look back at some of the highlights of 2015. I was reading an article earlier this week regarding Time's 2015 Word of the Year (they picked "emoji" - le sigh). This article led me to an NPR story about the American Dialect Society's annual Year in Words list that includes words like "squad goals", "opt-outer", "safe space", "dadbod", and my personal favorite, "unicorn" (referring here to its use in business specifically around startups). This group will select their word during their upcoming conference. I don't know what I can do to influence the American Dialect Society but I'm begging you, don't select "squad goals" as the word of the year. It's a terrible concept that makes me rage-ful. Like "#parentinggoals" and "#relationshipgoals", "squad goals" carries too much weight. It feels like one more way to make people unnecessarily compete with one another. Just hang out with your friends and have fun.

I digress.

The articles got me thinking about the amount of words I used this year. I did a lot of writing in 2015; this blog, my NaNoWriMo novel, edits to last year's novel (two new chapters, almost 4K more words and more to come), two LinkedIn posts, and at least a dozen blog posts for work. For the museum, I wrote three full tours and four conversation pieces. I also have two to-do list notebooks (one for home, one for work) and the notebook(s) I carry for jotting down ideas, short stories, and other short writings. I like words and forming them into sentences and paragraphs and such. I have favorite words although I don't often use them in casual, every day conversation. I like the way "defenestration" and "palimpsest" sound but don't have a use for either word most days. I also love the word "hiraeth"; it's Welsh and means homesickness for a home that you can't return to or that never was. Beautiful.

How would I quantify my use of words? Since I'm not a particularly scientific person nor did I start writing this post months ago so as to have done actual analysis of my writing, I used a free online text analyzer tool that let me copy and paste text and would, through the magic of the Internet and math, provide me with some fun stats on the words I used this year. I decided to use a sample of my writing including my novel, Land of Legends, and the ten most read Island posts from the year (I selected the ten posts that had over 50 views; the highest was 69 views). Before I "analyzed" the text, I jotted down a few words that I thought would be high on the list:
  • Awesome
  • Rage-ful
  • Dinosaurs
  • Hallmark
  • Unicorn
  • Writing/Writer/Write
  • Friend/Friends/Friendship
  • Pumpkin
In my novel, I used the word "kraken" 47 times and unicorn/unicorns 68 times. "Legends" was the most used word in my novel (that wasn't an article or the main character's name) with a whopping 155 uses throughout the story. The most used phrase was "before the end of the summer" and I referenced my main character's name, Iris, 774 times. The title of the novel which is also a place, was used 149 times throughout. The novel was a total of  50,078 words this year to give you some perspective.

Here on the Island, at least in the top ten posts, the most used words were date (35), friends/friend (50), love (27), dress (25), dating (22), perfect (15), tomatoes (9), and movies (8). The phrase "date lab" was used sixteen times and I referenced "Lane and Zach" (characters on Gilmore Girls) five times. I used the phrases "is the absolute worst" and "I have an aversion to" twice each and the product name "dress pant yoga pants" six times. Sadly, both "dinosaurs" and "Legos" were only used three times each; none of my dinosaur related posts were in the top ten. You all seemed (I used "y'all" only three times) very into my posts about dating and pants so I'm not sure what that says about me or my readers.

I made a very conscious choice this year to not use the word "just" as much or at all and was pleased to find it was an infrequent visitor to my writing and I know it was almost entirely eradicated from my work email (I'm very proud of this by the way). I've also reduced my use of "that" (another rather extraneous word) and "also".

Words are interesting - there's another one for you. When was the last time you said "interesting" and actually meant it in the dictionary definition of the word? Honestly, I can't remember. My most frequent use of "interesting" is usually accompanied by a covert eye roll or a snicker. However, I really do think it's interesting to consider the words I use most frequently. I'm sure if I did a full analysis of the Island, "dinosaur", "awesome", "Pumpkin", and probably "baking" would be the most frequently used words. As a writer I need to consider my words and look for new ones to help me create those sentences and paragraphs. I've been working on edits to my novel recently (Transient Suburbia from NaNoWriMo 2014) and I hear a lot of myself in my characters, not as much as some of my other writing but enough. In this case, it's cool and it works. In the future, it might not and that's something I need to focus on as I develop my work.

Here's to a new year of wonderful words and ideas! And hopefully to a year that won't include "emoji" or "squad goals" or something equally horrifying as the word of the year.

Happy 2016 Island Readers! 

Pumpkin hopes you make smart life choices while you're out ringing in 2016. She'll be napping.

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