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I Write Like...

The idea of stylometry fascinates me, with its use of statistical techniques to identify the author of written text. Key elements are frequency patterns of words, word groupings, and word positions in sentences.

Scholars used stylometry to determine if Homer wrote the last book of The Odyssey, if the Apostle Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians, and if Shakespeare wrote the first act of the play The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore.

The English mathematician August de Morgan created the idea of stylometry in 1851, suggesting authors could be identified by the average number of letters in their written words. His simplistic approach was refined by Udny Yule, W.C. Wake, and A.Q. Morton.

Court cases have used stylometry to identify “fraudulent” wills and “false” criminal confessions. In the 1970s, Patty Hearst’s defense team introduced stylometric evidence to “prove” that Heart's tape-recorded “communiqués” were not her own words....but the judge disallowed such evidence.

Recently, Donald Foster, a Vasser College English Professor, used stylometry to confirm Ted Kaczynski’s authorship of the Unabomb Manifesto and identify Eric Rudolph as a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.

With this introduction, why not allow stylometry to test your own writing? The website I Write Like uses statistical analysis tools to analyze your word choice and writing style, then compares it to those of the famous writers.

You need to enter English text of some "extended " form. I tried various items...section from a paper I had published...a letter of recommendation for a student...and a "Math Lint" column from the MathNEXUS website. The results? I write like H.P. Lovecraft, Jonathan Swift, and Edgard Allen Poe...all esteemed authors, respectively.

If this is not enough, why not let statistical techniques test your reading ability: I Read Like. Oops..guess this was an April fools prank!