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How many words do you actually use?–Update April 9, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary, writing.
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[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a more-or-less weekly basis.]

So, I’ve put eleven blogs in my database so far, which has given me a total of more than 212,000 words.  Here’s what I find by analyzing the whole pool thus far.

  • 5% of the pool consists of the word “the.”
  • Add the word “to” and the two of them comprise 8.4% of all words used so far.
  • Add the word “of” and we go up to 11.1%
  • Add “and” and that gets us to 13.8%
  • Add “a” and we get to 16.3%
  • Add “I” and we are at 18.4%
  • Add “in” and we reach 20%.  One-fifth of all the words used were repetitions of those first seven words.
  • Add “that,” “it,” “is,” and “for,” and we reach 25% of the total.
  • Add “you,” “on,” “this,” “was,” “at,” “my,” and “with,” and we reach 30% with just 18 words.
  • Add “as,” “by,” “be,” “but,” “have,” “are,” “not,” “me,” and “from,” and we are well past the one-third mark with 35%.
  • Add “he,” “or,” “about,” “they,” “an,” “so,” “his,” “we,” “one,” “all,” “if,” “comments,” “what,” and “out,” and we reach 40%, with only 41 words.
  • To get to 45% you need 59 different words.
  • To get to 50% you need 85 different words.
  • To get to 55% you need 127 different words.
  • To get to 60% you need 191 different words.
  • To get to 65% you need 298 different words.
  • To get to 70% you need 465 different words.
  • To get to 75% you need 747 different words.
  • To get to 80% you need 1,242 different words.
  • To get to 85% you need 2,113 different words.
  • To get to 90% you need 3,747 different words.
  • To get to 95% you need 7,394 different words.
  • To get to 100% you need the rest of the words in the English language (some large quantity far in excess of 20,000).

So why is it so hard to learn English?

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Comments»

1. litlove - April 10, 2007

Just to say I’m loving these analyses. I don’t have anything clever to say about them, but wow – they’re great!

2. caveblogem - April 12, 2007

Thanks, litlove. I owe much to you, of course, for giving me the idea. I have two more volunteers for this project. I’m thinking of doing your blog after that, if you don’t object.

3. litlove - April 13, 2007

Not at all!!!

4. verbivore - July 17, 2007

Now I’ve spent some time trolling through your records for this project and am completely in love with what you’ve been doing. Being a translator and a fanatical reader, words are the very stuff of my day-to-day. Just wanted to tell you I think this is wonderful!

5. AmyListener - October 27, 2007

Can you graph that for me?

6. Joe - May 4, 2010

RE: So why is it so hard to learn English?

Because with 75% of the vocabulary you don’t necessarily comprehend 75% of the meaning. Here’s a sentence from the NY Times with four of 18 words missing:

The law enforcement official who said Mr. Shahzad had xxxxx himself also xxxxx more xxxxx of the xxxxx.

7. The New Oxford Ameri.... err... LOLSPEAK Dictionary - September 20, 2010

[…] […]


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