Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.
It was only a matter of time before this computational power was brought to bear on the prolific chefs of the Scholarly Kitchen, so I decided to take on the job myself. The following paragraphs record the results of this brief experiment — run on that same hot Saturday in suburban Maryland, principally as a way to avoid the work I was actually supposed to be doing.
First, I took the most recent full-length TSK posting by each of the site’s frequent bloggers — Kent Anderson, Howard Ratner, Phil Davis, Joseph Esposito, Ann Michael, David Crotty, Michael Clarke, and Alix Vance — and ran it through the I Write Like submission form. I was careful to remove extended quoted material from the posts, to avoid gumming up the analysis with artifacts from other literary styles. Here is what came back:
Kent Anderson writes like David Foster Wallace
Howard Ratner writes like David Foster Wallace
Phil Davis writes like H. P. Lovecraft
Joseph Esposito writes like David Foster Wallace
Ann Michael writes like David Foster Wallace
David Crotty writes like David Foster Wallace
Michael Clarke writes like Arthur C. Clarke
Alix Vance writes like David Foster Wallace
To say the least, these results had me scratching my head. Was it really possible that the prose style of six of the eight Scholarly Kitchen authors actually most resembles that of the “hyperarticulate Tin Man” best known for writing Infinite Jest? Perhaps — but it seemed more likely that it was something in the software. For instance: Infinite Jest weighs in at just under 1,100 pages; perhaps the program, when it encounters a blog post approaching that length, simply throws up its virtual hands and defaults to David Foster Wallace.
With that in mind, I decided to explore the other extreme of parameter space — I ran the analysis on the first two and first three paragraphs, respectively, of those same blog posts. The results of the complete experiment are presented, in convenient data-mineable form, in the table below.
Two things, at least, jump out of the results above. First, in terms of sheer variety, Michael seems to have fared best. And, second, as David’s results make clear, one paragraph can make a big difference (from Dan Brown to . . . Leo Tolstoy?).
Other investigations — e.g., “Compare and contrast the content of Manage to Change with that of The Leatherstocking Tales” — are left as an exercise for our community of commenters. And the Scholarly Kitchen bloggers themselves, of course, are free to choose whatever literary forebear strikes them as the most flattering.
A few other things I would note about I Write Like:
- One person who doesn’t write like David Foster Wallace, apparently, is . . . David Foster Wallace, who reportedly writes more like Cory Doctorow.
- My own investigations suggest that Joseph Conrad writes like Oscar Wilde, Herman Melville writes like Arthur Conan Doyle, and James Joyce writes like . . . James Joyce.
- To be fair, the builder of the site admits that more literary raw material needs to be loaded in to improve the tool — and, for all I know, it may well have gotten better even in the short week since I ran my experiments. YMMV.
Finally, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did subject my own sole previous blog post on the Scholarly Kitchen — a liveblog of the “Food Fight” session at this year’s SSP annual meeting — to I Write Like’s interpretive scrutiny. Based on the first two and first three paragraphs, the program informed me that I write like Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club. But it was only when I pasted in the full post that the program was able to come to grips with my allusive, byzantine style, and reveal my true literary lodestar — David Foster Wallace.