Word clouds are showing up everywhere, and understandably so. They provide interesting, meaningful, and sometimes even insightful representations of written works. Furthermore, they’re freely generated by easily-accessible computers. The only barrier to overcome is collecting the written work of interest in a format that the computer can consume.

The basics of generating word clouds are always the same: process a given collection of writing, find the most frequently occurring words, and scale each word based on its frequency. Depending on the type of content, a few other tweaks may be appropriate. Typically, the resulting words are then organized into some type of aesthetically pleasing arrangement.

Being rather interested in the case of the Zodiac, I recently found myself asking a predictable question: what kind of word cloud would we get from the collection of the killer’s letters? To satisfy my curiosity, I took all of the killer’s canonical Bay Area letters and fed them into the most popular word-cloud generator on the web: wordle.net.

To avoid unrepresentative repetition, I only included one copy of the Zodiac’s initial three, essentially-the-same, letters. In particular, I used the San Francisco Chronicle letter since it was the only one to have the phrase: “In this cipher is my identity.” I also tweaked some of the options based on what I felt seemed best.

The following is what wordle generated. I’m not sure if anyone will be able to glean real insight from this word cloud. But, it’s interesting nonetheless.

Zodiac Letters Word Cloud