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
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.
- In a subsequent rant-like musing on expanding the faculty, I write like noted mystery novelist Agatha Christie. However, if I don’t include the endnotes, it appears that I write like Arthur C. Clarke.
- In [last night’s rant-like reflection on the common reading], I write like Arthur C. Clarke. If I don’t include the endnotes, I also write like Arthur C. Clarke.
- Right before the three rants, I wrote a profile of my valued colleague, Elaine Marzluff. In that musing, I write like Agatha Christie. If you skip the endnotes, I write like Anne Rice. I guess it’s good to know that I don’t just write like people who’ve been honored by the British Empire.
- In my commentary on ways in which toys that promote one group can potentially damage others, I write like Arthur C. Clarke.
- In a more positive essay on free book tables, I still write like Arthur C. Clarke. I’m sensing a pattern here.
- In a commentary on college visits it appears that I write like David Foster Wallace . If I remove the endnotes, I write like Cory Doctorow. If I remove the line that says
Topics/tags: Rants, short, higher edbut leave the endnotes, I write like Arthur C. Clarke again .
- Let’s switch genres a bit. How about my extended musing on my research? Anne Rice. Without the topics/tags and disclaimer? Still Anne Rice. Without the endnotes? Arthur C. Clarke .
These are all recent musings. Has my writing changed over time? Let’s see.
- My thank-you note to donors, which was my fourth musing, is like the style of Agatha Christie.
- My ode to convocation, which was my ninth musing, is like Arthur C. Clarke.
- My description of the individually advised curriculum is also like Arthur C. Clarke. I’m sensing a pattern.
But my profile of Elaine was different. What about my other profiles?
- Adrienne Hardin: Anne Rice. That seems appropriate.
- Monessa Cummins: Agatha Christie. Perhaps Dame Christie’s archaeological work is like my writing about MC, or vice versa.
- Doug Caulking: Arthur Clarke.
- Sarah Purcell: Anne Rice.
- Erik Simpson: Arthur C. Clarke.
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 .
- Grant Gale? Arthur C. Clarke. Without endnotes?
- 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 . 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 , Bob Greene [7,8], George Plimpton , Greil Marcus , Pauline Kael , or Cecil Adams ? Who else did I read regularly back then? I can’t remember .
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 . Oh well.
I write like Samuel A. Rebelsky.
I write like I write.
I write like myself.
Postscript: It may not surprise you that I Write Like reports that in this musing, I write like Arthur C. Clarke.
 I am both saddened and amused to see that the musing that is like Wallace is one in which I have only two endnotes.
 This statistical matching is clearly a highly precise instrument.
 I wonder if it’s an issue of paragraph length. My endnotes are usually short.
 Wait! I thought that removing endnotes made me more like Sir Clarke, not less.
 Doctorow seems to be the one exception, as he writes a lot of non-fiction.
 I’m probably not Chicagoan enough.
 No, not the exercise guru.
 I’m probably not midwestern enough.
 I’m not literary enough. I’m also not athletic enough.
 Not obscure enough? Insufficiently artistic?
 I’m definitely not that brilliant. I’m not that careful in my writing. And I don’t write about film.
 I’ll let you fill in your own summary of the commonality of those writers.
 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.