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I'm familiar with word clouds (or tag clouds) as used on blogs or on sites like Delicious. It seems to me that a tool similar to that could be of use to writers like me, who don't have an editor, when trying to identify typical or overused phrases. So here is my question:

  1. Does there exist an online tool which analyzes text samples for repeating phrases?

  2. What tools or techniques can a writer use to avoid recurring phrases or idioms too often?

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Word clouds just list the most common words. Any simple word counting tool can spit out a list of words ordered by frequency.

A nice tool on the Mac is Word Counter. Using your question as a sample, it outputs a list that you can order by frequency:

enter image description here

Word Counter also creates readability statistics and other stuff, not related to your question. Word Counter is not very stable on my Mac, so I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it, but there are other tools around.

If you search for something like "word frequency tool" or "word frequency statistic", Google gives you many free online tools that can count words.

One free online Text Analyzer can count recurring phrases, too. It does not recognize grammatical structure, but simply finds multiple occurences of the same words in the same order. Here is a section from a sample analysis of the Wikipedia article on StackExchange:

enter image description here

As you can see from entries such as "stack overflow a" you need to postprocess the results manually.

There are also many code samples online that show you how to count words using different programming languages. Here is a nice code sample for the text editor Vim.

Wikipedia has a list of text mining software, maybe you can find something else there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_text_mining_software

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