Four reasons why sentiment analysis matters to you – part 1

There are many reasons for you to carry out sentiment analysis and word studies, but those listed in this and part two are four of the best.

Last time I gave you an overview of why word sentiment and word count matter, how it adds to our understanding of text, and can give pointers where to focus. This time we’ll look at specifics.


Sentiment analysis – why should you do it?

Days before he bolted for the Soviet Union, MI5 man Kim Philby held a press conference affirming his loyalty to Britain. And he smiled as he did so.

True the smiles were fleeting, but as Malcolm Gladwell covers in Blink, they were enough. Beyond his words his true feelings were revealed. His words were denial, but his subtle smirks revealed him as a traitor

Whereas that analysis of Philby’s 1955 interview required replays and slow motion, judging the sentiment and tone behind the written word is something that is easy thanks to modern technology. But why would you want to do it in the first place?

This series of posts will look at the why, how and when of word and sentiment analysis, how it can improve writing and critiques, and explain some recent trends in writing.

News Research

Jesus vs Dawkins – who is best at Christmas?

Christmas is with us again and with it gifts are being given – and if you are particularly lucky you got the God Delusion by the supreme pontiff of atheism, Richard Dawkins.

On the other hand, you may be sitting around the table quoting your favourite Bible versus at each other and regaling each other with the life of Jesus. But which is the most joyous text to read at Christmas?

By the way, this post was meant to go up on Christmas day but server problems are a thing apparently. 


Columnists – opinionated or sentimental?

Newspapers have become more opinionated. Not’s not my opinion, it’s a fact as proved when I spent a long time in the British Library’s newspaper section going through past opinion columns.

In this sense, opinionated means ‘having more opinion columns’. Back in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s there were just a handful of opinion columns, by the early 2000s newspapers appeared online, but as the Internet Archive Wayback Machine records shows, Comment lacked its own navigation on the Guardian just a decade ago.

But has the sentiment and tone changed too – are papers becoming more opinionated?

Opinion Research

“Here’s who’ll win the Oscar”

I’d love to tell you which film will pick up the Oscar for Best Picture or one of the Best Writing awards, so I through I’d have a look at some scripts.

If my prediction if it was based simply on what I’d read then I’d probably pick The Artist– but what if maths and stats had a part to play?

If you’ve read a few articles on Considered Words you may have noticed I like to put text through a word analysis program called the LIWC. At the heart of this bit of kit is a list of words that have been put into different categories and ranked – such as for positive emotions, for thinking and so forth.


Being a Better Liar 2: Lie Harder

When writing is a business what do you do when the rules are broken, especially when they’re broken by the person who set them?

I wrote about being a better liar, but reading it out at my writing group I realised I’d broken Considered Word’s chief rule – show, don’t tell.

I know, I know. But I paid the price when I squirmed reading out such a plodding piece, and now I’m making it up to you with an extra-special, example-rich extravaganza.


WD-40 lubricates ideas

What do oil and ideas have in common?

The world runs on both, and have gone to war over both, and both can be messy, but there’s more to it than that.

What unites them is that both end products are a reiteration and refinement of a crude original. And WD-40 is the ultimate example of this.


Being a better liar

Scientists say that if you want to write fiction you need to be a good liar.

According to Matthew Newman and James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, liars speak and choose their words differently from those telling the truth, and this affects how we write.

Author Editor's Pick General Jonathan Richardson Link Opinion Original Writing Research Review Site Crash

Jonvocation is Considered Words!

This site is no more! Head to for all the latest on writing as a profession.





Quantifying comedy and the science of sitcoms

Comedy, like politics and religion, can be a big joke, or no laughing matter, depending on your point of view. And like political and religious views, it’s near impossible to convert doubters that your chosen path is the true one.

Knowing what makes a comedy ‘good’ is a dark art – you may have seen the Importance of Being Earnest more times than a maiden aunt but your favourite comedy is American Pie.

Likewise you love Monty Python’s Life of Brian as the greatest comedy ever made but find the troupe’sThe Meaning of Life turgid, yet both are rated as four out of five stars on IMDB.

What then makes a comedy great – how can a writer know what they write is funny, how can you argue your favourite comedy is ‘the best’ when another swears that you’re wrong?