Word Frequencies

This post is specifically based on a conversation I was having with Linda Kemp, but if you’re interested, this info is good for anybody. But straight away, this is pretty niche stuff, so when you feel your eyes glazing over…

As some of you will have seen, I have been writing some creative writing over the last few weeks.

Forget the writing itself. But I was thinking, I would like something to analyse what I’ve written, to tell me about word frequency – how often I used the word “idiot”, or whatever. Just in case I find that I have sub-consciously written the word on every other line.

Some words will anyway be more prevalent than others, like the word “the”, but I wanted specifically to check that no words/phrases had crept into the document by mistake. One of the ones I notice about me is the phrase “of course”. You might have noticed this if you read my posts, although I do try to edit most of them out.

First off, I have been using Microsoft Word to create my story. It will check spelling, grammar, and will read (audibly) the document back to me. I was surprised that this feature – the frequency of words – was not already part of the program, but no matter – I went looking for an add-on online.

In the end, I found https://gregmaxey.com/word_tip_pages/word_usage_and_frequency_report.html. Seemed to be just what I was looking for. But this add-on looked like it had been written for an old version of Microsoft Word. This looked like in was Word 2010, whereas I just buy an annual subscription from Microsoft, so have the latest software.

Anyway, Step 1 was to visit the site and download this add-on. (The first time I visited this site, I did, of course (see? I told you!), read the blurb.)

This downloaded a compressed (.ZIP) file into my Downloads folder.

Step 2, I decompressed that file. I won’t show that but I can tell you how if you want. It contains two files, which I just extracted into a folder under my Downloads.

Step 3 (I’m showing this) I opened Microsoft Word. I loaded one of my story documents. Then, I installed the Word Count add-in.

As you can see, this add-in counts up the words in your original document, then creates a fresh document, creating a table with items ordered by frequency.

In my example (only a 1-pager) the most common word was “the”, closely followed by “was” and “a”, so I suppose I can’t complain – those words are pretty inevitable. But hopefully this will allow me to spot where I have over-used certain words. I don’t know how far down this list I’ll need to look.

I only just found this add-in, I haven’t looked at any of the options yet. I believe it can detect phrases, too. I believe you can exclude certain words from the analysis. The other thing, I don’t know if this will load every time I open the document, start Word, and so on. So there is still some figuring out to happen.

It’s certainly something I’ll be looking at and trying to use. If it is any good, I’ll be sending this guy a bit of money – after all, this is the kind of thing I have been doing these last few years. If this is something you find useful, please consider the same.


    • Ah, there was a MS add-on in the Office store, think it had Cloud in its title. Kept on prompting me to log in, even after I’d logged in, looking at my Office subscription details, ‘n’everything, so I kept on looking. But this one seems to do the trick, although I seem to have to re-enable it every time I start Word.


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