Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Write Like...

There is an interesting web site that claims to analyze a writing sample that you paste in, and tell which famous writer you write like, in terms of word choice and writing style. What algorithms they use, and how legitimate the whole thing is is anybody's guess, but I pasted ten samples from this blog, and seven of those were evaluated as David Foster Wallace. I admit without shame that I was not familiar with Wallace - something I am now determined to remedy - but from the Wikipedia page, here are some descriptions of him and his style that seem to match well:

  • Wallace's fiction is often concerned with irony
  • long multi-clause sentences
  • (humility alert!) able to ingest complex mathematics, logic and philosophy
  • incorporate jargon and vocabulary (sometimes invented) from a wide variety of fields
I wonder if I should be concerned that he hanged himself after a lifelong struggle with depression.

The other three samples I pasted in were likened to H.P. Lovecraft (cool!), James Joyce (blah!), and Dan Brown (heaven have mercy!).

On the other hand, as a control, I tested the following:
  • the first four paragraphs of this work by Hemingway, and the result was Neil Gaiman
  • the first four paragraphs of The Sensible Thing by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the result was Ray Bradbury
  • the first page or so of A Perfect Day for Bananafish by Salinger, and the result was... David Foster Wallace (seems I am in fine company!)
Thus, entertaining as this may be, I judge it a cheap play on pareidolia, not that much different from a horoscope or a psychic reading, although unlike the latter two, this could become something neat if it is fed more texts, and its parameters are refined. Have fun with it.