Text Analytics, Nuns, and Language Density

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The Age of Text Analytics

Welcome to the Internet. A stratosphere of content that is humming, exploding, and lighting up with content every minute. As of 2020, 78 million WordPress posts are going up every minute, 4.4 million Google searches a minute, and 350 million Tweets every minute. That is a lot of content to generate data for text analytics for marketing nerds everywhere.

Any experienced content creator knows that there is a difference between pushing out content to an audience and an audience engaging with content. The stratosphere is full of noise, chatter, waste but what about the content that influences, trends, and even goes viral?

The Nun Study

Text analytics can slice and dice data to uncover insights about consumer behavior. But science has a say in content creation as well. In 1990, the University of Minnesota did a “Nun Study” to look at the onset of Alzheimer’s. The population chosen for the study were nuns from the School Sisters of Notre Dame. A sample of 678 nuns from the congregation was chosen to have their brains examined post-mortem.

The findings were interesting.

The study looked at the “linguistic density” of essays written by the nuns at the age of 22. The evaluation of “linguistic density” could predict with 80-90% accuracy whether the nuns would develop Alzheimer’s later in life.

What is Linguistic Density?

A simple way to understand linguistic density is that it represents the number of ideas in a sentence divided by the number of words in a sentence. For example,

The girl’s cotton candy is pink.

This sentence has 3 ideas: The girl has candy.

The candy is cotton candy.

The color of the cotton candy is pink.

3 (Ideas)/6(Number of words)= 0.5 language density

Therefore, linguistic density is correlated with the complexity of language. Young people who write with a high linguistic density have lower instances of neurodegenerative diseases in old age.

Linguistic Density Of Writers

This principle can be applied to published writers as well. The University of Toronto did a study on the works of famed British author Agatha Christie. Christie was a prolific author throughout her life until the later years when her writing had become erratic and vague.

The research examined her book, “Elephants Can Remember” in which the main character cannot solve a crime because of her faltering memory. In that book, the size of Christie’s vocabulary decreases, she became repetitive, and the complexity of her words diminished significantly. Later in life, Christie became reclusive, and many fans hypothesized that she succumbed to a neurodegenerative disease.

Real Life Creates Content

Why is language density important when considering content on the Internet? Scientific findings have shown that the command of complex language is better for cognitive functions. But what about the consumption of complex language? Content that is more language dense provides more value to the reader. It intellectually challenges the audience and encourages them to exercise their brain.

High language density in content is more engaging to the reader. It paints a picture, tells a story, and makes for good data for Text analytics. In the content stratosphere that is the internet, high language density content is a bright star.

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