A tool for using word clouds in journalism.

World clouds can be useful in drawing out and visualizing the key words in a document or dataset. After completing a textual analysis, imputing your results into a tool like Tagxedo can reveal the most and least used words derived from your analysis.

As well as visualizing plain text, Tagxedo is unique in that it also allows you to pull data from RSS feeds or Twitter.

Word clouds in journalism

Using Tagxedo, Paul Bradshaw created the following word cloud, highlighting the key words in 500 tweets about Panorama’s Wikileaks episode.


Similarly, Fast Company used word clouds to illustrate commonly used words in the titles of the Iraq War Logs.


But be wary

Drawing on the Fast Company example, Jacob Harris from the New York Times warns against using word clouds as a substitute for limited knowledge of a subject matter.

"When looking at the word cloud of the War Logs, does the equal sizing of the words “car” and “blast” indicate a large number of reports about car bombs or just many reports about cars or explosions? How do I compare the relative frequency of lesser-used words? Also, doesn’t focusing on the occurrence of specific words instead of concepts or themes miss the fact that different reports about truck bombs might be use the words “truck,” “vehicle,” or even “bongo” (since the Kia Bongo is very popular in Iraq)?"

So while word clouds, and associated tools like Tagxedo, can help to visualize a textual analysis, it is important to be careful in how you use these to explain your insights.

Visit the Tagxedo website here.