Friday, July 23, 2010

What's Your Style?

A few decades ago when I was still part of a college faculty, there was a tremendous excitement in the English Department over computer analysis of texts. By analyzing such measurable components of fiction as sentence length and complexity, paragraph length, proportion of dialogue to narrative, and number of occurrences of common words, one could come up with a "fingerprint" for a writer's style. Then, should someone discover a "lost" manuscript by Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen, it could be scientifically vetted for literary authenticity. Or something like that.

This excitement has now moved to the Web. A much-visited site invites writers to paste in a section of their texts and purports to analyze it to see what famous writer you most write like. After Mike Flynn sent me the link (, I tried it, putting in three separate sections of STEAL ACROSS THE SKY. The first time, the site informed me that I write like Leo Tolstoy. The second time, also Leo Tolstoy. The third time: Raymond Chandler.

Can you think of a single thing Tolstoy and Chandler have in common? I can't!

A commenter on Mike's blog researched this further. He discovered that:

- The Gettysburg Address was said to be in the style of H.P. Lovecraft.

- Ditto for the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.-

-One guy entered a paragraph of (which I believe to be) the Odyssey in Greek (even in Greek letters) and it was identified as being in the style of Charles Dickens.

In a way, this is too bad. I was pleased to think I might write like Tolstoy. Another cruel disillusionment in a cruel world.


José Iriarte said...

It told me I write like Stephen King. I'm going to choose to believe it's accurate. :)

José Iriarte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Böhmert said...

You should try again with some paragraphs of Tolstoi. Perhaps the program will tell you you write like Kress :-)

TheOFloinn said...

Another commenter said he would pay good money for a copy of the Gettysburg Address written by H.P.Lovecraft.

TheOFloinn said...

And another responded with an H.P.Lovecraft Gettysburg Address:

"In an eldritch Precambrian epoch, aeons prior to the drawing of the ice sheets over the Antarctic continent, an eerie pulsing fungus from beyond the shadows of time brought forth to our inumbrated planet ..."

EFKelley said...

Other than a conversation starter, it doesn't seem to have much relevance.

Also it said I write like Dan Brown. Which would be fine, if I got his paychecks, but otherwise seems mildly insulting.