Best (or worst) of the Decade: Common Words in Titles

(This article curtosy of

As the Best SFF Novels of the Decade winds down, we’ve got one final amusing bit of data for you. Among all those fantasy, science fiction (and then some) books, what are the most common terms in use?

We counted [Google Doc spreadsheet download] and the results are fairly predictable, but also pretty hilarious. In fact, if you assembled the most generic fantasy trilogy statistically possible, it’d look like this:

  • The Shadow War of the Night Dragon, Book One: The Dead City
  • The Shadow War of the Night Dragon, Book Two: Dark Blood Magic
  • The Shadow War of the Night Dragon, Book Three: Dream World of the Fire Wolf

Those titles are frighteningly plausible.

Below the cut, take a look at some amusing juxtapositions we noticed in the common word data!

Some notes on how we counted: words like “war,” “night,” “dream,” “man,” “water” were counted if they were part of a compound word in which the meaning is the same. We also included plurals in the count for a singular word.

Here are the most commonly used words in the book titles voted on in the Reader’s Poll. All the words below were present 10 or more times in a title:

We didn’t stop there in our word hunt, though. Curiousity took hold. What, for example, was the most popular occupation?


And what did those most popular occupations love to fight?


Evil vs good was something we looked out for, too. Unfortunately for these fictional worlds (but fortunately for their sense of drama), evil handily wins the eyes of readers.


Although we couldn’t but notice how evenly matched the Above and the Below were:


Fantasy was vastly outweighing science fiction results during our search, so to even it up a bit, we compared the (mostly) SF-only terms. Science fiction is overwhelmingly looking ahead, while fantasy seems to be mostly looking back (at the dragon chasing them):


We also looked at gender comparisons:


And, for fun, elements and body parts. (Parts, it turns out, is not parts.):

Note from Ëarwen: Does any of this seem a bit foreboding to you? Hell won out over heaven, Demon won out over angel, Shadow won out over light. Come on, people! Let’s shine those candles! I know tons of great young adult authors waiting to be published – Get with it, people! =) Let’s show what REAL writing is!

7 thoughts on “Best (or worst) of the Decade: Common Words in Titles

  1. Wooooo, YEAHHHHH! Amen, Earwen! I shall indeed make it my mission 😀 Let’s make fantasy/imagination full of LIGHT!

  2. Unfortunately, most agents and publishers aren’t looking for clean YA fiction…

    I wouldn’t take the book titles too literally, though, because some books have titles that aren’t strictly descriptive of what they’re about. The Lord of the Rings, for example. 😉

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