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Who Do You Write Like?

Over the past few weeks, several people have pointed me to a brand new site: http://iwl.me

iwl.me — short for “I write like” — is designed to give people an idea of what authors have a similar style to the writing that’s submitted. It uses this through a technique called Bayesian classification.

However, don’t think that you can get a good comparison just by submitting a few sentences or paragraphs.

A Bayesian classifier looks for word and phrase frequency, and to get a good comparison, you’re going to need a longer sample than just a paragraph. If you submit a long enough sample (at least a couple of pages), you’re more likely to get useful feedback.

It’s kind of like a blind person tasting a chef’s salad in a single bite. If you dig in on one side, you might say, “Oh, this tastes like egg and lettuce.” If you dig in on another side, you might say, “No, this tastes like tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce.” If you dig in yet another side, you might say, “this tastes like ham, chicken, and bacon.”

However, if you eat the whole salad, you get a delicious blend of flavors. With just a paragraph, the algorithm is like the blind person taking a small taste of the salad.

Sorry, guys. As I write this, it’s nearly time for lunch. I’m looking forward to it.

I submitted several sample chapters of my novel-in-progress, and received back a fairly consistent result of James Joyce. I’m actually glad that it has a consistent style — it shows that the book at least is internally consistent.

While this can give you some useful feedback, I wouldn’t rely on it as the only source for finding similar authors to your writing voice. While this does look for word choices, sentence structure, and sentence length, it doesn’t take into account genre or topics. Make sure to read some of the author’s work before bragging too much.

And, for the curious, this blog post sounds like Cory Doctorow (likely because he’s a famous blogger). I can live with that.

Interested to find out who you write like? Check out iwl.me!

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