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How to Create a Random Poetry Line Generator

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Wed Oct 30, 2019 4:52 pm
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alliyah says...

How to Create a Random Poetry Line Generator
Using Excel

What is a Random Poetry Line Generator?
While wandering the wonders of the internet, you can find many great poetry resources to use; poetry line generators are one type of resource. YWS even has its own "Random Poetic Line Generator," which produces random poetry lines by combining different words into phrases that theoretically make some grammatical sense. With just a few words inputted you can get thousands of unique options from such a generator. You can check out YWS's version at the bottom-right of the site page to see what I'm talking about. YWS Poetic Line Generator

How would I use that?
You might be wondering, if there are already such generators available on the internet, why would you create own? The benefit of creating your own poetic line generator is that you can take complete credit for whatever it produces, since you came up with the material that's produced! You can also give it more options than ones that are already available through online generators.

You likely won't be able to produce an entire poem that "makes sense" from such a generator, but it often creates odd lines that can make for a really interesting starting point. People might use a random line from their generator in order to challenge themselves or to get some inspiration. You can also just check it out to get a laugh from what it creates.


The good news is you don't need extensive Excel experience to make your own generator! To be completely honest, I'm no expert at using Excel - I don't even know how to properly use it to solve math problems. So whether you're great or mediocre at Excel, I promise you will be able to figure this out - it's fairly simple!

Step 1 - Decide Your Line Structure

Figure out the form or grammatical structure of the poetry line.

If you've ever diagrammed sentences in English class, that's sort of what I'm talking about.

My poetry line uses "Subject (plural) - Description - Verb / Action Phrase - Prepositional Phrase" (example: "Days // in peril // pretend it is okay to lie // with gentle compassion").

For my own generator, I used the same format that the YWS one uses because it seemed simple enough - feel free to create your own, though. It's important that all of your subjects are either plural or singular, because that'll change how you write your verb/action phrase.

Now, in your Excel document, in a horizontal row, write out the parts of a sentence you'll be using with each sentence part in a different box. I put it near the top of my document, but you can put it below your Excel coding for sentence structure if you like.


Step 2 - Code Your Line Structure

Under the row that lists your sentence parts you're going to add your content options!
The code you will use to make it produce a random component is below:
=CHOOSE(RANDBETWEEN(1,10), "Option1", "Option2", "Option3", "Option4", "Option5", "Option6", "Option7", "Option8", "Option9", "Option10")

Make sure to post that entire code - commas, punctuation, quotation marks and all - into that first square.


So what do you write as the options? If I were filling in the "plural noun/subject" options, I would replace the word Option1 with whatever plural subject I wanted. Make sure to keep the quotation marks from the code, though. For example, if I wanted to generate a poem about random foods here's what it might look like:

=CHOOSE(RANDBETWEEN(1,10), "Baked Breads", "Chicken Nuggets", "Garden Apples", "Eggs, Eggs, and more Eggs", "Candy", "Chocolate Dipped Strawberries", "Water Drops", "Dinners", "Desert Options", "Lemons")


Take that mess and type it into the box directly under the part of speech that you are going for (such as "plural noun/subject") and click "Enter" so it saves. If you've done it correctly, clicking "Enter" will cause one of the random options to appear in the box. If you missed part of the formula like the commas and quotation marks, Excel is either going to pop up with a message about how the formula is invalid, or #NAME? or a similar message will appear in the cell. If you get an error code, double check that you've got all of that punctuation in.

Then you do the same thing for every other part of the sentence under their respective boxes.That's really all there is to it. Now, to generate a new sentence, you just have to click "F9" on your keyboard. Remember that the code has to be written exactly or it will not work.

Step 3 - Adding Details

You'll notice that in the example above, sometimes for the subject I had multiple words or even a description added with the subject. You can do that with all the parts of the sentence too - making it more complicated if you like or keeping it basic. You'll find as you go through that some of the options will just not make sense. Then you can either change them by clicking on the box that contains the code with that element and editing the entry, or you can leave the nonsensical options, as you might still find them inspiring.

Step 4 - Adding Variety

If you want more than 10 options, change the range (1,10) giving you ten options to your desired option, like (1,20), which would give you twenty options, and then continue the pattern from above.

If you had a sentence that had 4 parts and you used 10 options for each part, you would have 10,000 options of possible poetic lines. That's a lot of poetry! In my personal poetic line generator, each part of the sentence has at least 20 options, which gives me quite a variety!

You might find it works better to have different generators for different types of word choice - for instance, a generator with mechanical/technical options might not go with your nature imagery poem. On the other hand, if you mix up your themes and word choice you can have a lot of variety.

Step 5 - Add Formatting

I like formatting my generator in a larger font and making all the boxes big so I can see what's going on - here's a picture of my finished product. You can play around with the different formatting options in Excel to get just the look you're going for. I actually like to have a section below my line generator for storing the lines that I really like.


Let me know if you come up with any cool lines! Happy poetry-making!
maybe i make up colors for poetic cadence, but i don't think i can ever love someone who doesn't understand that teal is a different color than dark cyan

You have light and peace inside you. If you let it out, you can change the world around you.
— Uncle Iroh, Avatar the Last Airbender