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I write like …

The other day in English 295, Lighting the Page, we were starting to look at programs that analyze text. One of the students brought up the site I Write Like, whose tag line is

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.

I have a lot of samples of my writing available and so I thought it would be fun to try the service. I had just written a fairly extreme rant about criticizing faculty proposals, so I started there. For that musing, it appears that I write like noted science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. But that’s not the only musing I’ve written recently, nor is it the only genre of musing I write. So let’s see who else I write like.

These are all recent musings. Has my writing changed over time? Let’s see.

But my profile of Elaine was different. What about my other profiles?

Interesting. When I write about women, I tend to write more in the style of women writers. Let’s consider one or two others.

  • In writing about Terry Bisson, I write like Terry Bisson. No, not really. Let’s see … that one is like Arthur C. Clarke. If we don’t count the endnotes, I write like Kurt Vonnegut [4].
  • Grant Gale? Arthur C. Clarke. Without endnotes?
    Vonnegut. Interesting.
  • Hallie Flanagan ’11? Arthur Clarke. Without endnotes? David Foster Wallace. It seems wrong that removing endnotes makes me more like Wallace.

Okay. I’m done. I assume you were done a half a page ago. But just in case you’re still reading, I do have a few more notes.

It strikes me as a bit strange that I write like fiction writers, primarily genre writers [5]. I wonder how many essayists and other non-fiction writers are in the database. Even though I read way too much genre fiction as a young adult, I also read a reasonable amount of non-fiction. Certainly, you think that I’d be influenced by some of those writers. Shouldn’t I write more like Mike Royko [6], Bob Greene [7,8], George Plimpton [9], Greil Marcus [10], Pauline Kael [11], or Cecil Adams [12]? Who else did I read regularly back then? I can’t remember [14].

I also wonder whether we’d see a difference if the algorithm could pay attention to some of the things I consider part of my personal style, such as the excessive use of endnotes [15]. Oh well.

I write like Samuel A. Rebelsky.

I write like I write.

I write like myself.

I write.

Postscript: It may not surprise you that I Write Like reports that in this musing, I write like Arthur C. Clarke.

[1] I am both saddened and amused to see that the musing that is like Wallace is one in which I have only two endnotes.

[2] This statistical matching is clearly a highly precise instrument.

[3] I wonder if it’s an issue of paragraph length. My endnotes are usually short.

[4] Wait! I thought that removing endnotes made me more like Sir Clarke, not less.

[5] Doctorow seems to be the one exception, as he writes a lot of non-fiction.

[6] I’m probably not Chicagoan enough.

[7] No, not the exercise guru.

[8] I’m probably not midwestern enough.

[9] I’m not literary enough. I’m also not athletic enough.

[10] Not obscure enough? Insufficiently artistic?

[11] I’m definitely not that brilliant. I’m not that careful in my writing. And I don’t write about film.

[12] My essays aren’t illustrated. I’m also not writing informative essays in response to assorted questions. That rules out David Feldman ’71.

[14] I’ll let you fill in your own summary of the commonality of those writers.

[15] I can’t remember what this endnote was supposed to say. I created the reference and forgot to add the referent.

Version 1.0 of 2018-04-19.