I Write Like…Me?

on May 10, 2012 in Grammar & ESL
13
0

I recently came across a fun writing toy and I’ve just spent the last hour playing around on it. It’s not earth-shattering, nor is it going to change the world, but it does illustrate a point rather nicely. Your voice is a secret writing weapon, so use it.

Here’s the toy: http://iwl.me/

“I Write Like” is a website where you essentially paste a chunk of your writing, click the button and see what famous writer you’re most like according to text patterns. So far, after a few test runs, I apparently write like some sort of hybrid between Stephen King and Cory Doctorow. I’m rather bummed – I was hoping for Janet Evanovich. She’s clever and makes me giggle from time to time. Bronte wouldn’t be bad either, but I’m realistic.

But I’ll settle for Stephen King if I really have to.

It should be noted that I don’t own or work with or support the site in anyway. Nor does it support me. But it entertains me and has made me think about voice in writing.

As a writer, your voice is one of your most distinguished features. Of course, a talented writer can tweak that voice to reflect different tones in certain styles. There are also certain times that you don’t want to have much voice at all in your writing.

Playing golf and networking is a soft skill in the traditional workplace. It’s a writing “soft skill” to know how to determine when to use a bit of authentic voice, when to write with neutral tones and when you can pour it on without reservation. For example:

This post is written with an authentic voice. You could argue that I’m writing with no holds barred since I’ve used some slang, some natural phrasing and more than a few punctuation tricks to influence the “sound” of sentences. (Those quotes would be a trick – so would that dash that just made you pause and emphasize this phrase.)

The blog post I wrote for a client had plenty of voice. The celebrity news piece had some voice as well since it was written with an opinion and intentional bias. The scathing email I wrote last week was dripping with voice. (It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.)

Blogs and features aren’t as interesting if they are written like pure journalism with a “just-the-facts-ma’am” sort of style. Most of the time, readers like personality, so as a writer it is our job to give it to them.

But then there are the times when things need less voice. Press releases, for example, are supposed to be rather dry and constrained. So are white papers and other more sensible business documents. Nobody wants a memo covered with quotation marks and exclamation marks, after all.

Hey peons! I just wanted to let you know that our “consultants” have found some serious problems with productivity this month! It’s going to be a good month for lay-offs around here, so consider putting in some serious “face time” if you’re hoping to make it to July. Have a great one!!

Right. We see the problem there.

Many new writers start out in one of two ways: they write English papers or they write musing online journals. The voice is dry or it’s over the top. Practice finding the gray areas of your voice and learn to use it in a powerful way when you need to and restrain yourself when you should. Believe it or not, it’s often a learned skill.

Well, apparently I’m back to Cory Doctorow again with this piece. (I just tested it.) Who do you write like?

Thanks for sharing!
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13 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller May 10, 2012 Reply

    What a fun new toy – what’s that sucking sound I hear? Yep, it’s me being sucked into another time-suck toy. :-)

    I tried a business post, a personal post and a personal e-book. It came back H.P. Lovecraft – Cory Doctorow (gets around, huh?) – James Joyce. Just call me Sybil. :-)

    • Amelia Ramstead May 11, 2012 Reply

      My results left me laughing! I pasted in a magazine article and got Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I tested it further with a more casual blog post … and I got H.P. Lovecraft?!?!?

      Oh dear.

  2. Amandah May 10, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing this neat website. I’ll test it out to see who I write like in the world of fiction and non-fiction writing. Stay tuned!

  3. Matt May 10, 2012 Reply

    Sounds like a new source of potential testimonials/endorsements for new writers, :)…. “Joe Schmoe after a long night out, a mix of Edgar Allen Poe, Hunter Thompson and Dante”. Maybe not. I wonder how far back their reference go to?

  4. kaleba May 10, 2012 Reply

    Hmmmm…..

    I jumped all over this new web toy. Who doesn’t like to be distracted? And, it’s always interesting to get a different kind of opinion on one’s writing.

    But I gotta be truthful here; I’m beginning to question it’s veracity. I have a couple of theories. Either Rebecca, Cathy Miller, and I have the same voice, or the program spits out Cory Doctorow on a regular basis, or there are just a few author’s names plugged in and they get spit out randomly.

    I plugged in four non-fiction blog posts each from each of my three blogs. Five of the 12 came back Cory Doctorow. While that’s not quite half, it is interesting that I got back Cory Doctorow on two of my fiction pieces. Now we’re up to seven of 14.

    Apparently my dog writes like Stephen King since two of those posts came back King and only one was Doctorow. The fourth was Mark Twain.

    One of my blog posts was David Foster Wallace, which is pretty damned cool.

    And my play was Gertrude Stein, which I’m taking and running with as completely valid and reliable because it suits my ego. ;)

    Definitely a fun toy. Thanks for posting about it. I’ll be referring back to it often, because it is kind of fun to see what it will spit out. (Oh, and by the way, this comment came back Cory Doctorow. lol)

  5. LaToya Irby May 10, 2012 Reply

    Cool. I did four samples. I got David Foster Wallace once and Cory Doctorow three times. I guess Cory Doctorow it is. These are all non-fiction web writing. I’d be interested to see who my fiction writing is like – but I haven’t written anything fiction in years.

    • Amelia Ramstead May 11, 2012 Reply

      My fiction writing came back as David Foster Wallace. I’ll take it! :)

  6. Anna Sibal May 11, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing this site. It’s very addictive. I got hit with Cory Doctorow once and H.P. Lovecraft three times.

  7. Pam Houghton May 11, 2012 Reply

    Oh, my goodness, I write like the guy who wrote Lolita. Really? Does that make me some kind of perv? Maybe I should try another sample! :)

  8. Andrew Kardon May 11, 2012 Reply

    I definitely need to try it with a few different posts, but one of my latest (from The Stir) tells me I write like Stephen King. Kind of scary considering I wrote about vasectomies. But guess that’s the point? ;)

  9. I analyzed different sections of a single blog post of mine. Turns out I write like Cory Doctorow, Charles Dickens (!) and H.P Lovecraft.

    I’m wondering if I should be worried!

  10. Luis Fernando Reyes May 14, 2012 Reply

    naaaahhh, it looked interesting but it did not work. This page randomly gave me authors. I think this is a platform linked to amazon to pretty much sell old books. But hey, you are write: -As a writer, your voice is one of your most distinguished features-. I love this website, definitely quality content

  11. Lucy Smith May 14, 2012 Reply

    I did it with some copy I’m currently working on and got David Foster Wallace. I’ve never heard of him (I can hear the cries of anguish already) so am unsure if that’s good or bad, but Wikipedia says he liked dogs, so I’ll take it ;-)

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