In the (word) clouds

I’m always on the lookout for better ways to visualize data and information.  My hard drive has an endless supply of Excel spreadsheets, replete with myriad charts, graphs, and projections.  But unless you’re a data-driven person (read:nerd) like me, the previous sentence is enough to put you to sleep.  So this morning I thought to myself, “I wonder what other things I can try to make visually appealing.”

So, that led me to…word clouds! A word cloud is essentially a word count of a document, where the relative size of the words indicate how often they are repeated.  The larger the word, the more times it was repeated in the document.  Below are word clouds from various climate action plans (in order, Hollins, E&H, Lynchburg College, Washington & Lee University, and University of Richmond).

There’s nothing too unexpected here.  The first two clouds show a focus on carbon, emissions, and campus.  As you get further down in the list, words like sustainability and environmental start to get larger.  This could reflect different organizational priorities, or it could simply be a result of differing writing styles.  Nonetheless, it’s a fun and easy way to quickly compare a few schools’ climate change aspirations.


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