Monday, July 19, 2010

Computers Rate Writing Style?

by Julia Buckley

I've noticed that many bloggers have experimented with the new web innovation, I Write Like.

I first played with it while reading Peter Rozovsky's blog. He had tried putting some of his own writing into this "statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers," according to the description on the I WRITE LIKE page.

So of course I had to give this a try. I put in some text from my first novel. I got:


I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




I tried again, with something I'd written in an entirely different tone, and I got this:


I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




I took my work in progress and put in the first chapter. The result was this:


I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




Concerned that I only seem to have things in common with male writers (not that I don't admire King and Wallace), I tried again with text from a yet different novel. The result was this:

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




Okay, I thought. One last try. Let's see if I have anything in common with Dorothy L. Sayers or Margaret Atwood or someone. I put in another WIP:



I write like
William Gibson

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




Okay, I get it. According to this web program, there is a certain male style to my writing. I'm certainly flattered, because if I Write Like wants to put me in the leagues of the poetic Joyce and the bestselling King, not to mention the talented Gibson and the seemingly inimitable Wallace, I'll take it.

Then my son wandered into the room; he wanted to see what his fourth grade crocodile report would elicit. I put in some of the text, and guess what? My son also wrote like David Foster Wallace, even though he wasn't discussing much more than the length and color of the average crocodile. :)

What's fascinating about this site, though (and ALL the conversation about it on websites, blogs and yahoo groups), is that even when people realize there's nothing scientific about it, and that it doesn't guarantee anything (like that you really have Shakespeare's talent and artistry even if it says you write like he did), people still want to try it--and try it again.

The success of the game (and it really is a game) is that people want to keep playing it.

Including me. So yes, now that I've found I Write Like, I think I'll peek in with new text once in a while, just to see what it says. Supposedly the young Russian creator will be adding many more authors now that his program has gone viral (he started with 50 authors).

To whose work does I Write Like compare your writing?

67 comments:

Sheila Connolly said...

James Joyce. (Did he write cozies?)

I'm a little troubled by the bias toward male writers. Maybe we should talk to that "young Russian."

Sandra Parshall said...

I got King and Joyce and somebody else -- can't even recall who now. I think it's hysterically funny that so many writers (including me) are rushing to find out who they write like. How about writing like ourselves?? So much for originality and finding our own voices!

Julia Buckley said...

I agree, Sheila. Especially since I don't think you'd find too many English teachers who would concur that I write like any of those people.

Julia Buckley said...

Sandra, that's why it strikes me as more of a game than anything else. It reminds me of the board game Mystery Date. Kids would play just to see the result behind the door--and if it wasn't the result they wanted, they'd play again until they got that perfect guy.

It's about self-affirmation, maybe.

Diane said...

Sheila may feel that it's 'biased' toward male writers, but I'm wondering if there are even any female writers - famous or not - in the selection. Besides, doesn't Joyce's work put people to sleep eventually?

lil Gluckstern said...

I finally decided to try this, and, sadly-or joyfully- I write like Stephanie Meyer. So should I pen an opus, or just be embarrassed? It is scary to think about this, and fun. She is a woman, though.

Julia Buckley said...

Diane,
There are some women writers--as Lil mentioned, Stephanie Meyer is in the program, and I've also heard Margaret Atwood and Agatha Christie. Surely there are others.

Just not women who write like me--or so IWL says. :)

Lil, ride that comparison to best-sellerdom! Do you think it would impress an editor? :)

lil Gluckstern said...

I deliberately wrote something in the "chick-lit" style, and I'm still embarrassed. I will continue to read you all, and stick to my day job. BTW, my daughter said Meyer had a premise that was appealing, but she is a really bad writer. I guess it takes all kinds, but it can be disheartening

Julia Buckley said...

I've never read Meyer, but even my students tell me that "The story is good, but the writing is bad." One girl told me she found grammatical errors. :)

David Cranmer said...

Yep, I think many of us found out we wrote like Stephen King. What a great marketing gimmick.

Julia Buckley said...

Now, if we could SELL like King . . .

Paul said...

This site is a front for a vanity publishing outfit. It recruits suckers by pretending their writing style is like some famous person. One blogger submitted random characters and was told he wrote like James Joyce.

Check out this link:

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/012502.html#012502

Juanita said...

I got that I write like Gertrude Stein. But that was a freelance job I did for a confidence building site for kids. idk. Interesting to see what the algorithm is they use to determine what each style is like.

Julia Buckley said...

Interesting, Paul! I wonder if they actually get responses. I can't imagine anyone actually responding.

Juanita, that's the first Gertrude Stein I've heard!

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