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12 Jan 98

Fordian Analysis

Despite yesterday's entry 11-jan-98, and the way it disparaged text analysis, I spent a good deal of Friday night creating some custom electronic tools for the analysis of text.

Eventually, my tools will analyze the dialogue and narration of novels, and the speaking styles of play characters, because that's the sort of thing that interests me. But last night, making baby steps, I asked my program to tell me the number of characters, number of words, number of sentences, and the top 200 words by usage in a text file. The program is tentatively called "Word Fucker 2.0."

I started with my own work, and analyzed December's journal.

First of all, I wrote 75 pages in December, according to the 250-words-per-doublespaced-page rule, and 1608 sentences. My average sentence was 11.2773631840796 words long, give or take a few nanosentences. That's a healthy, brief length, probably skewed to the short end by my propensity for short chunks of dialogue. Henry James wrote sentences 650 to 8000 words long, so I'm about 65 to 800 times away from the literary endurance of my hero Hank. Until I reach his level, I'll just model my sex life after his.

The linear meat of the output is found in the "word order" section. After "the" and "and," "I" came in at a robust 554 mentions, and "me" at 117, for a total of 671 personal pronouns. I'm an egotistical bastard; my readers take up less than half as many thoughts: "you" shows up 229 times. "He" shows up 98 times, "his" 80, and "she" 79, and "her" only 61. You might then suppose that I am male. For the time being, you'd be right!

My writing includes 1.14:1 ratio of dogs to hippos. I also equate "Paul" with "God," since both show up 15 times, but "sex" and "head" beat them both off at 16. Jesus finds second billing at 14, and most of those mentions were sacreligious. I'm going to hell. Further proof of my damnation came when I saw that "woman" appears before "religion" and "church."

"People" are more important than "work," and while "insurance" is more important than "family," "family" ranks over "Brooklyn." "Dad" and "Son" end up near the top, because of the Career Development series.

Looking at these inconclusive results, I thought it might be interesting to write the quintessential Paul paragraph, ala yesterday's "perfect historical sentence." Here it is, culled from the top 0.5% of December's journal:

I gave Jesus some good Brooklyn sex. "Great head," he said. "But am I insurance for the ill religion?"

"Its Christmas," I said. "We are always trying."

There you have it--the culmination of four months of nightly writing and almost 100,000 words of text. Now that I've given this compressed text to my readers, I can quit writing this fool journal. So I close these months with a nod to John Baldessari, and report: Quality Material, Careful Inspection, Good Workmanship: All Combined In An Effort to Give You A Perfect Sentence.

You're welcome.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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