I write like… a bunch of sci-fi authors?


I am having real difficulty writing a post I very much want to write (I rarely force myself to write in the way I am doing right now, and this is why — it’s extremely time-consuming and exhausting). So here is a more frivolous post for the time being.

A friend just told me I Write Like, a website that supposedly examines your writing and compares it to various well-known authors to try to figure out who your writing is the closest to. I have no idea how accurate it is, or even what criteria it uses for deciding who writes like who. But for some reason most of my results have come back as this:

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

I had no idea who David Foster Wallace was until today, and now I only know a little bit of who he is, which isn’t much better. This is the one I got for things like my DSQ article, and The Fireworks Are Interesting, among many others. It’s by far the most common of my results.
Some other results I got:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

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

H.P. Lovecraft!?! o_O The first to get that one was my first feline ethics post, I can’t see the resemblance. (But presumably it has something to do with word use or sentence structure, not with content, since there’s nothing Lovecraftian about cats. I got Asimov for the second feline ethics post for whatever that’s worth. Then again, the first feline ethics post had a lot of quotations from other people in it.) This is the most common one I get besides David Foster Wallace, and I find that incredibly disturbing.

I write like
Isaac Asimov

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

Isaac Asimov (the second feline ethics post).

I write like
Margaret Atwood

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

Margaret Atwood. (The post If Only, Oh If Only, The Oak Manifesto.)

I write like
Arthur C. Clarke

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

Arthur C. Clarke (A post called About this “can’t defend themselves” stuff.)

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

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

Vladimir Nabokov (Because I have never liked gravitational metaphors of depression)

I write like
Cory Doctorow

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

Cory Doctorow (What You Know)

I write like
Lewis Carroll

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

Lewis Carroll. (The Meaning of Power)

I write like
George Orwell

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

George Orwell (Echostaffia and Power — I removed the quotations from other people)

On most of those I only wrote one or two of the links I used, although with the first two especially there were many more than that considering I went through dozens of things I’d written, and even on some of the others there were more than a couple.

So basically… I write like a bunch of sci-fi/fantasy authors? And especially David Foster Wallace and (somewhat fewer) H. P. Lovecraft1?!? This is quite odd. I hope my writing is not as hard to read as Lovecraft. And I seriously wonder what this site bases their analyses on.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

35 responses »

  1. Okay I just ran a bunch of stuff by Jim Sinclair, Larry Arnold, Donna Williams, and amorpha&, and still got a pretty relentless pattern of lots of David Foster Wallace and H. P. Lovecraft. Weird.

  2. I haven’t looked at the site yet (I intend to, but will have to save it for later when I’m not running to get ready for work). But I wonder if the analysis thingy perhaps only has a limited reportoire of authors who it compares people’s writings to? Could be one reason why certain author names come up again and again, maybe not because writing style is really quite so similar but because the few other authors are too dissimilar. Selection by default. If that makes any sense.

  3. I tried it with some of my blog posts, and got pretty much the same results. I think maybe they just have a fairly limited pool of famous authors.

  4. I wrote several paragraphs on the site you linked to and was told I write like James Joyce. Hmmmmm.
    I am part Irish….but I also know he wrote one of the books considered to be perhaps the hardest to read in the English language…oh my. Let’s hope the similarity is for his more readable works…;)

  5. I mostly got two particular results though, and so did the other people I fed into it. The rest were mostly from one or two things I’d written. And I think there’s at least 40 authors in the system (or rather it started with 40 and has since expanded). I’ve read several other people’s blogs where they consistently got one or two other authors that I didn’t get at all, and they also wondered if it was because of a limited pool of authors.

  6. David Foster Wallace.

    When he died there were such accolades I bought several of his books. Well four to be exact. Then I got them. The one I started to read kind of scared me. Maybe I started with the wrong one. I put them all in an upper cupboard and left them there thinking at some point I would figure out what to do with them. If you would like I will send them along for you to compare literary styles. ;)

    One preface in one of his books reads, Wallace is as original and disturbing as a computer worm. Yikes! But then again, sometimes we need disturbance to blast us into awareness.

    I have had this bad luck with media. I once went to watch a showing of Silence of the Lambs thinking mistakenly that it was a comedy.
    Now that is an afternoon I will not forget. It also taught me things are not always as you expect them to be including films and books. And So I think I probably did pick up that first book expecting it to be something other then it was in fact. I may just try reading one of the others. They have such amusing names: Consider the Lobster, Girl With Curious Hair, Infinite Jest, and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I obviously expected to be amused right from the get go and the author had other intentions.

  7. DFW is great( and very different from Lovecraft ( no sci-fi at all in his novels or essais ( essais are great ( many on the internet ( @ harpers bazard if i remember well( and rolling stone)))))

    He is very, very, funny (and bright). It s weird, but i my mind i have always conected your writings to his.

    He has said somewhere ( in a new yorker itw ( some short stories also @ the new yorker site (+ITWs))) that good writing was about how it is to be a fucking human being (and that good writing should help people to feel less alone inside).

    Anyway, sorry if i write like a nobody, but i am in a library and i have 2 min. remaining before being throw back in the streets ( where i walk like Mickael Jackson).

  8. No worries…you’re much clearer than Lovecraft, and unlike Lovecraft, YOUR writing doesn’t scare me if I read it late at night. ;-)

  9. Regarding how the IWL site works, according to its author (I’m not linking because I don’t want to get stuck in the spam filter but you can find it pretty easy following the link in your post):

    It’s a Bayesian classifier, which is widely used to fight spam on the Internet. Take for example the “Mark as spam” button in Gmail or Outlook. When you receive a message that you think is spam, you click this button, and the internal database gets trained to recognize future messages similar to this one as spam. This is basically how “I Write Like” works on my side: I feed it with “Frankenstein” and tell it, “This is Mary Shelley. Recognize works similar to this as Mary Shelley.” Of course, the algorithm is slightly different from the one used to detect spam, because it takes into account more stylistic features of the text, such as the number of words in sentences, the number of commas, semicolons, and whether the sentence is a direct speech or a quotation.

    It also says (in the same article I got the above quote from) that supposedly Margaret Atwood put some of her own writing into the box and came out with a result of Stephen King! So obviously it’s not an “exact science” sort of thing, but my guess is that the more data it gets, the better it gets.

    Incidentally there’s another site called the Gender Genie where you can analyze text in a similar manner to IWL, and it pretty consistently thinks I’m a man….

  10. Some of my gun-nerd blogger friends tried this, and they, too, were all WTF? about it. There seems to be a limited number of authors in the database, with some bias there, too. I mean, why is Cory (spit!) Doctorow there, and not Hal Clement? How come nobody seems to write like Heinlein, or Keith Laumer? This looks like a bunch of lightweight silliness to me.

  11. HP Lovecraft is mega cool ourooni :)

    In me fiddle faddle gerontiousness I can out wander the ullysean lighthouse irrelevancy by way of that fancy hotel thing in yeah with the balconys Russel square or was it, virginia are you listening to the myrmiddons of the south bank cumbrian lord of twaddle bragging and blagging.

    Nah you gotta be into the Guinness to be a Joicest not a Goethe. (a sorry old joke where the Irish are revenged)

    Well anyway never mind Prof Fitzgerald, and Lili Marlene, HP was one I had admitted into my personal ‘pantheon’ some time ago.

  12. When I plugged in some of my blog posts, I got that I write like David Foster Wallace, too.

    Then, just for fun, I plugged in the following:


    And the verdict: I write like Ernest Hemingway! I don’t know how they determine the resemblance here, but I think it’s pretty funny, especially as I’ve always had an aversion to Hemingway.

  13. I can’t remember if my husband did this or just read about it, but he told me that inputting Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing brought up a completely different author as a result. :-)

  14. I got five entries from my LiveJournal analysed – two poems and three prose pieces. I was told that the poems are like James Fennimore Cooper and Margaret Mitchell. The prose pieces are like Chuck Palahniuk, H.P. Lovecraft, and David Foster Wallace. The longest piece is like H.P. Lovecraft.

  15. someone posted a screencapture (maybe NOT photoshopped?) that they put in a repetition of “herp derp derp” or something like that, maybe 100 or more times, and the site told them that they write like Stephanie Meyer (twilight)

    i put in one email to a friend and got Cory Doctorow then i got distracted in Amazon looking up what he writes and he sounded interesting. didn’t order any books just yet, though.

    i find you easy to read but g finds your blog too “dense” (like density, not the other meaning). i have to read things and summarize them to him later. not sure if this is an ESL thing or a hyperlexic thing, or both together.

  16. PS: @ Amanda’s mom:
    i can totally see the James Joyce. it’s becos you write stream-of-consciousness? (so does my mum)

  17. I don’t doubt it’s too dense for a lot of people (sometimes also for me). I’m not sure whether it’s that I’m incapable of summarizing, or that summarizing always looks questionably accurate to me, or both. Personally I think I write like an Ent (who aren’t native to language but, given language, communicate very densely).

  18. To n.

    That probably is exactly the reason.

    I write like talk and talk like I think. It is what feels the most natural to me. Some sentences can go on for an incredible length of time and I am afraid I switch subjects without always signaling…sigh

  19. I’ve been thinking again, and I guess the algorithm is a bit limited if it does not include the works of Thomas Urquahart http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Urquhart who makes Joyce look laconic by comparison.

    If anyone has ever read any of the works of Urquahar they will know what I mean, his translation of Rabelais, out Rabelaises the old abstractor of the quintessence himself, he is pleonasm incarnate, incarnadine and with red spots on.

    The one person I would not want to write like is Jonathan Mitchell.

  20. Interesting. Plugging in some posts, I also kept getting David Foster Wallace and Lovecraft, 80% or so Wallace. (And I hope my writing is not as hard to wade through as Lovecraft’s, either.)

    I am wondering how limited their pool of authors is, as well.

  21. If you think there’s nothing LOvecraftian about cats you clearly need to read The Cats of Ulthar by that very author. Heheh.

    PS: I got ole HP as well. Which I’m cool with, ’cause I’m a huge fan of the Cthulhu Mythos – especially the derivative RPG.

  22. Most things I read say 50 authors, although the guy who did it has been adding things supposedly. As I said, looking around I’ve seen some Lovecraft and Wallace, but not with anything near the consistency I’m getting out of the writers I’ve been checking. I’ve noticed though that whenever several people get the same writer, they put it down to the limited author pool. (I’m not as much saying it’s accurate, as just that it’s weird that all these people I know are getting the same authors regardless of who the authors are.)

  23. (I’m not as much saying it’s accurate, as just that it’s weird that all these people I know are getting the same authors regardless of who the authors are.)

    *nods* I found it interesting, too. Especially since I don’t notice that much similarity between the use of commas, sentence length, etc. that it’s supposed to be analyzing. Odd.

  24. about scary things and sci-fi in DFW :

    i discovered first a ” A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again “, which happen to be very well translated in french. That is the funny part of the guy, some kind of a very clever friend who talk in a very generous way, fluid and bright ( even though he seems to be very keen on details and add huge and weird footnotes (hilarious most of the time) to his texts) .

    Then i read “brief interviews with hideous men” ( also very well translated in f.) and that is pretty cold – very dry style sometimes. The scary part.

    To me the scary part is sort of related to J.G Ballard’s strange and scary sci-fi short stories ( which happen to be very etc.).

    It’s just that dfw doesn’t seems to be a pure sci-fi writer, he’s not in the genre exactly.

    I guess that is because we all live in a kind of sci-fi world now. You don’t have to project stuff in the future to talk about a scary reality.

  25. I’ve been feeling like things are sci-fi lately too. But I wasn’t sure whether that was because they really are, or because I’m turning 30 in a society where technology is has been advancing my whole life. (Which I doubt will continue forever, given what has happened to it in the past.) I tend to view sci-fi as a pretty varied thing, not just traditional or ‘hard’ sci-fi.

  26. I mostly found the best sci-fi ( sci-fi that i like) in books like “city of quartz ” by Mike Davis, which is just an (very precise) history of L.A and has only humans for monsters.

    (Talking about cities, Las Vegas is so sci-fi that it become almost a parodie of sci-fi, but the parodie of sci-fi is sci-fi too, so…)

  27. I too got HP Lovecraf, after inputting one post. I assumed it was because of the length of my post and the punctuation.

  28. Ma’am, I think this is one way in which you are quite normal, whatever that means. I have read a few blog-posts by people who have tried this test, and as far as I can recall, the reaction of every one of them was, WTF?.

    I don’t think anybody who has tried the test thinks that it showed an accurate representaion of his or her writing style.

  29. Pingback: I Write Like • La Canta Magnifico Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s