In Which I Find a New Toy

Posted by on July 20th, 2010 at 10:50 PM

By way of Mick Farren’s Doc 40 blog I ran across the website I Write Like, which purports to statistically analyze the style of any piece of writing and determine which famous author’s style it most resembles.  Naturally I want to give it a test spin, so I paste in a long paragraph from my most recent post, and the result comes back James Joyce.  Now, what you realize immediately is that the results of this little gewgaw are almost always flattering, sort of like how the past life swami will always tell you that you are the reincarnation of Mata Hari or the Sir Francis Drake.  I’m guessing the James Joyce comparison has something to do with really long sentences.  Anyway, I start playing with the thing, pasting in long paragraphs from contributors to this website, then throwing in a few more from similar sites.  The results are rather amusing:

Gary Groth Cory Doctorow
Shaenon Garrity Dan Brown
Noah Berlatsky H.P. Lovecraft
Ken Smith Edgar Allan Poe
Rich Kreiner P.G. Wodehouse
Rob Clough Cory Doctorow
Tom Crippen Charles Dickens
Donald Phelps David Foster Wallace
Domingos Isabelinho Daniel Defoe
Dan Nadel Arthur C. Clarke
Tom Spurgeon Chuck Palahniuk
Eric Reynolds Kurt Vonnegut

The way I score it Rich Kreiner is the winner.  You’ll notice Cory Doctorow comes up twice; he’s a rather frequent duplicate result for some reason.  James Joyce is another repeater; he was also the result for R.C. Harvey and Harvey Pekar.  Jeet Heer came out Cory Doctorow the first time, but when I put in the subsequent paragraph of the same post it came back Stephen King.

The natural test you’d want to put this thing to is to try it out on famous authors themselves.  It started out pretty well; a paragraph of Huckleberry Finn turned up Mark Twain, and a paragraph from Dubliners turned up James Joyce.  However, from this point forward performance degrades considerably.  I’m figuring Ernest Hemingway ought to be an easy one, but when I put in a chunk of “Hills Like White Elephants” it came back Ian Fleming.  I put in a chunk of “Red Wind” by Raymond Chandler and it came back Margaret Mitchell.  I put in a chunk of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and it came back Stephen King.  This seems so far off that I give it another chance, and put in a paragraph of The Great Gatsby.  It comes back H.P. Lovecraft, just like Noah Berlatsky.  I read in the fine print that it works better with longer excerpts, so I put in a longer chunk of Gatsby, and it comes up J.D. Salinger, which is at least getting warmer.  All this should tell you just how much salt you should take this with.

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “In Which I Find a New Toy”

  1. Noah Berlatsky says:

    P.G. Wodehouse is certainly hard to beat…but I’m pretty darn happy with H.P. Lovecraft.

    It’s because I keep using “unnameable” isn’t it?

    Also “Nyarlethhotep.”

    And “darn.”