Propeller Guard Information Center

Use of Wordles in Studying Propeller Safety

Wordles are a form of word art. They display the frequency of use of individual words in a passage of text by the relative font size of the word in an image. The individual words are displayed all jumbled together in colorful, eye pleasing collection of fonts and colors. As we view wordles, we begin to make associations of the various words and see the prominence of some words in the text from them being displayed in much larger fonts. We will be using wordles to deepen our understanding of propeller safety topics.

If you are a school teacher or have children in school, you may already be familiar with wordles. They are often used in the classroom environment. Tag clouds are a somewhat similar form of word art you may have seen used for web site navigation.

Wordles are generated from Wordle.Net by pasting in the text to be wordled, then selecting a font, maximum number of words to be displayed, some general layout variables, and a color palette.

In the past, we have used wordles to investigate other topics and they seem well poised to shed some insights into propeller safety. The idea to use wordles to investigate recreational boat propeller safety topics, came to us while we were moving to our new web site in early to mid 2011. Now that our move is complete, we are beginning to explore the use of wordles in this field.

The Propeller Guard Information Center’s previous website design consisted of a very long front page with a large number of HTML test links on it to allow our visitors to reach the various propeller safety topics and discussions on the site. During the move, we wordled the old PGIC front page to see the prominence of various terms in our coverage. We titled that wordle, “Propeller Safety Terms” because it does a nice job of presenting the terms often used in propeller safety discussions.

Propeller Safety Terms Wordle

Propeller Safety Terms Wordle

We find the Propeller Safety Terms wordle captivating. As our eyes roam the chart we see the various terms all jumbled together we are used to seeing in sentences. While the classic words (propeller, prop, and guard) are prominently shown in lower case and capitalized forms, it’s the other words that begin to draw us in (accident, devices, Injury, water, injuries, manufacturers, drive, struck, and countless more). We begin to make new mental associations between some of these terms we had not previously made. Actively viewing wordles can increase your understanding of an article or collection of text.

We normally generate wordles as pdf files and later convert them to jpg format for viewing online. In pdf format, wordles can be zoomed to exposed more layers of associations among the less frequently used terms. For example, below is a portion of the Propeller Safety Terms wordle above, zoomed in to expose the words displayed in smaller fonts. In wordles of thousands of words, multiple layers of zooming can be performed.

Propeller Safety Terms Wordle zoomed

Propeller Safety Terms Wordle zoomed

In the zoomed in version of a small portion of the Propeller Safety Terms Wordle displayed earlier, the less frequently used words (displayed in smaller fonts) become more prominent. Propeller safety terms like industry, cage, Avoidance, report, protection, fishing, life, stern, deflectors, vessel, and others now begin to demand our attention.

One future topic we plan to use wordles to investigate is media coverage of propeller accidents. We have noticed trends in media coverage (television, tv, newspaper, online) of those surviving major boat propeller accidents. These accidents tend to be covered in a few phases such as initial accident reports, in hospital recovery, survivors reentering society, and often, a one year later follow up. Each of these stages tends to have a different focus and vocabulary. Wordles may be able to shed some insight into these phases of victims lives and the media’s efforts to cover them.

We also see potential applications of Wordles to studying the opposing viewpoints of those debating the issue in public and in the courtroom Both sides tend to use their own debate points and terminolgy. Wordles are often used to explore opposing political viewpoints which is a somewhat similar application. They may also be of interest in viewing proposed propeller safety regulations.

Wordles are a refreshing way of gaining additional insights into text we might otherwise find boring. We have also found them to be a means of refreshing well known texts in our minds (such as the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer). We currently plan to use wordles from time to time on We would very much appreciate your comments on our use of this somewhat unusual vehicle to explore propeller safety AND any areas / topics you might suggest for future wordles.

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