style and a test

A fellow blogger and far better scholar pointed out this website, which compares your writing style to that of other known/famous writers.  (The instructions, if you want to give it a whirl, are self-explanatory).  Out of morbid curiosity, and because my style of writing has been the topic of discussion between myself and a few others, I decided to see what would happen.  Hence, I indulged.  I got this outcome from sampling the last two paragraphs from this post:

In many ways I was quite pleased with the result.  Thankfully, the sampling was from something rather basic and slightly sarcastic.  I then thought, ‘Why not try something more serious?’  With my newfound toy, I supplied some more text and got this outcome, which came from the last two paragraphs of this post:

I admit that I was a bit disturbed by that one given the genre and content of Lovecraft’s work.  Also, I didn’t imagine that the form of my critique of FC Baur would be on par with the style of Lovecraft.  In an attempt to wipe the slate clean, as it were, I gave it another go; this time using a sampling from the last three paragraphs of this post and received this outcome:

Oh dear; this can’t be good.  It would seem that when I critique the works of others, my writing takes on a dark and ghastly demeanour–something I would have never done intentionally.  (Maybe I should seek counselling).  However, in some ways Poe is a fascinating writer, so I wasn’t put off too much by the comparison; but I did think that such associations had to stop, so I gave it yet another try.  This time the sample came from the first three paragraphs of this post and yielded this result:

I almost didn’t want to admit this one, but results are results.  I guess the only redeeming quality with this is that the original post (give above) was an attempt to expose a devious plot by someone trying to peddle things as their own truth, when in reality they’re not.  In an attempt to get this result out of my mind, and still wanting to know more about my style of writing, I gave it another shot.  On this next attempt, I used a couple of paragraphs from a sermon I preached earlier this year, and was given this:

In many ways, I could not have been more excited with that result; Adams is one of my favourite authors.  He is an amazing storyteller and he knows precisely what to do and when to do in what he writes.  I just wish that I consciously knew those things; the connection here had to be a fluke. However, I then wondered if other things I’ve written, that are more narrative-like, would give the same result.  If only I were so lucky.  I got this result from using a few paragraphs from a story I started writing a few years ago:

Oh, this can’t be good.  What really disturbed me was that the story in question is a happy story; nothing evil and sinister.   (Yeah, yeah; I know the website determines the connections based on the Flesch and Flesch-Kinkaid scales and not actual content; blah, blah, blah).  However, my only solace with this comparison was the fact that King’s writing style sells books.  Well, to move away from the basic and to see if my style was really worth anything, I gave it one final go.  This time, I used the final two paragraphs from a recent submission to my project, and I received this outcome:

Not really sure how to take that one, especially since it was a critique of a portion of my PhD thesis.  Admittedly, the paragraphs used were summary, so the style would not be as technical as the rest of the paper.  (I tried inserting other bits from the paper, where things are more technical, but the analyser had difficulty with the Greek).  I’ll have to think about how this connection might be a good thing and/or how I might learn from it.

All of that aside, this entire process raised a concern for me, especially as I am thinking through a continuous scholarly debate in my field.  (I know I’m going to rip open a can of worms with a chainsaw on this, but here it goes).  One of the key debates in Pauline studies involves the question of authorship of the letters bearing Paul’s name–i.e. Romans thru Philemon.  When it comes to defending the position that Paul did not write certain letters–i.e. Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians and the Pastorals–a central point in this defence is the issue of stylistic differences.

In other words, scholars arguing against Pauline authorship for the letters just mentioned will say (and I’m oversimplifying things just a bit): ‘the style of writing between these letters and the “known Pauline letters” is just too different to say that they come from the same hand.  The grammar, the syntax, the word choice, the length of sentences, the vocabulary; all of it, in the “disputed Paulines” just doesn’t fit with what we find in the “authentic Paulines”.’  Oh, you mean the kinds of things that the Flesch and Flesch-Kinkaid scales would measure?  You mean the sorts of measurements used that told me seven different pieces of my own writing reflect the styles of seven different authors?

______________________________________

Just for fun: I ran a few random passages from each of Paul’s letters through the website just to see what would happen.  Here’s what I found:

Romans 2.1-11:  H.G. Wells
1 Corinthains 2.6-16:  H.P. Lovecraft
2 Corinthians 5.11-21:  James Joyce
Galatians 4.21-31:  Arthur Conan Doyle
Ephesians 1.15-23:  Daniel Defoe
Philippians 3.2-11:  James Joyce
Colossians 1.3-14:  James Joyce
1 Thessalonians 2.1-16:  James Fenimore Cooper
2 Thessalonians 2.1-12:  H.P. Lovecraft
1 Timothy 3.9-16:  Vladimir Nabokov
2 Timothy 3.1-9:  James Joyce
Titus 2.1-14:  William Shakespeare
Philemon 8-16:  Mary Shelley

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8 comments

    1. It might work if a different portion of 1 Corinthians was used. I’ll give it a shot later on today and see what happens.

  1. Interesting! So Paul actually wrote 2 Timothy, if he wrote Philippians, which mostly considered a genuinely Pauline? Or whoever wrote Philippians and Colossians wrote 2 Tim? 😀

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