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We All Write Like White Men
cap, captain miss america
zia_narratora

So, I’d been eyeing that meme going around since yesterday…


You know the one, the one where you plug in something you’ve written, and it tells you who you write like?


But I was starting to notice an uncomfortable pattern, so I decided to plug in some famous authors.


I started with people whom I knew were actually represented in the meme generator:


Hemingway




I write like
Ernest Hemingway

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




Margaret Atwood




I write like
P. G. Wodehouse

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








Chuck Palahniuk


I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

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




PG WodeHouse


I write like
Raymond Chandler

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




Raymond Chandler


I write like
Raymond Chandler

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




JK Rowling


I write like
J. K. Rowling

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




Douglas Adams


I write like
Douglas Adams

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




Then I progressed to people who I thought were probable entrants in it.

William Shakespeare


I write like
Daniel Defoe

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




Charles Dickens


I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

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




Jane Austen


I write like
Jane Austen

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




Geoffrey Chaucer


I write like
James Fenimore Cooper

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




Bill Burroughs


I write like
Stephen King

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




Franz Kafka


I write like
James Joyce

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




Mark Twain


I write like
James Fenimore Cooper

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




Thomas Jefferson


I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

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




Ralph Ellison


I write like
J. D. Salinger

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




Virginia Woolf


I write like
Dan Brown

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




I hope at this point, you can see where I'm going with this. I started putting in the names of famous female writers, both white female writers and women of color, and posted up the results here. It's completely unscientific and unordered, people are listed in the order they popped into my head to try.

Toni Morrison


I write like
James Joyce

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




Charlotte Bronte


I write like
Jane Austen

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




Emily Bronte


I write like
Daniel Defoe

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




Sappho


I write like
Dan Brown

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




Dorothy Parker


I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

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




bell hooks


I write like
Dan Brown

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




Isabel Allende


I write like
Stephen King

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




Zora Neale Hurston


I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

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




Alice Walker


I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

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




Sandra Cisneros


I write like
Kurt Vonnegut

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




Maxine Hong Kingston


I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

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




Octavia Butler


I write like
Isaac Asimov

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




Ursula K Leguin


I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

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




Willa Cather


I write like
James Joyce

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




Madeleine L'Engle


I write like
J. D. Salinger

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




Shahrnush Parsipur


I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

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




Phyllis Wheatley


I write like
William Shakespeare

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




Shirley Jackson


I write like
George Orwell

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




Sylvia Plath


I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

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




Arundhati Roy


I write like
Stephen King

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




E Nesbit


I write like
Lewis Carroll

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




Lucy Maud Montgomery


I write like
James Joyce

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







ETA for those of you coming from Roger Ebert's Twitter, there are two follow-up posts:

Rhetorically Constructed
My Father Writes Like Me

I recommend you read before commenting because they have additional information. Thanks!

I also want to thank you, Mr. Ebert, for linking.

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.


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Yeah, I noticed that too, actually. I found that really odd but sadly exactly what I expected.

Edited at 2010-07-13 06:42 pm (UTC)

I'm not terribly surprised by it, but I felt like a lot of people are posting the meme and no one is discussing this.


I thought it was a pretty stupid meme anyway because you can tell without doing it that everyone magically writes like a famous, rich, well respected author in their lj. Yay? Good for them, but I don't see the point.

But I didn't even notice the overall trend. That's kind of sad.

Well, I don't think anyone is pretending they think this means they write that well (although it would be funny if someone got Stephenie Meyer...) But it is neat to see how your word choice or language patterns reflect those of famous writers.

But yeah. I actually tried to get a female author for a bit, and as far as I can tell, there are only three in the system. But I can't find any writers of color at all.

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
Yeah, I was noticing that everyone wrote like white men, too. And, I'm curious about what possibilities there are and how they were selected. A lot of meme generators like this will show you a listing of possibilities once you are finished. But this one doesn't have that option.

I mean, obviously it's not restricted to "classics" because people like Dan Brown and Stephen King are in there.

Exactly, and Chuck Palahniuk. And JK Rowling. So far I have only seen three women represented (Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, and JK Rowling), and no people of color (although I do not know all the authors who've popped up, so I might be mistaken).

I am curious about who is in the generator, too. I sent a message to the people who created the meme and linked my blog post.

Everything written is rhetorically constructed--even the code that drives an internet meme.

Yeah, I started noticing it as you lined them all up. Way out of balance.

It's a rather silly meme to begin with, and makes me wonder what criteria they are using for the comparison in the first place.

I think it uses word choice, because the authors with the most unique vocabularies and made-up words almost always got themselves if they were represented in the meme (Adams, Rowling), but I think it also uses sentence structure. I noticed that anyone with very short sentences gets Dan Brown.

I've only seen those three female authors too.

I found that every time I had a certain character's name in, I wound up with Mark Twain. I changed that character's name, and wound up with James Joyce.

I noticed that when I used sections of Treasure Island with Squire Trelawney in them, RL Stevenson got JK Rowling.

I hadn't noticed that. But it's really, really disappointing. Thanks for pointing it out.

Yeah, I just thought it was one of those things where most of the people I saw taking the meme were women, but most of the results they were getting were men.

(Deleted comment)
I did, too. And they were still all white men. I tried really hard to get a female author as a result!

lol, I write like Mark Twain more than Mark Twain writes like Mark Twain!

I had fun plugging my own writing in but I don't really set any store in the answers it gave. How can anything "analyse" 1,500 words in 2 seconds enough to give even one tenth of an accurate result?

I think it analyzes and weights rare word choice and sentence length.

I'd noticed the Great White Men trending of the results, for sure. I think I'd be more annoyed if the results weren't so bizarre to begin with.

Yeah, I just felt like so many people were posting it and not questioning it, and...well, the majority of my friendslist is women, so it was all these women posting about how their literary counterparts are all men.

Also, the creator says he hasn't released the list but that there are 40 authors on it. I bet it wouldn't be too hard to reconstruct with all the results we've seen.

Yeah, I sent him an email and he emailed me back. I'm going to post that once I'm home from work.

Oh but I did post a little bit about it back to fourzoas

Edited at 2010-07-13 07:56 pm (UTC)

I got different results depending on if I posted fiction or a blog post or a historical essay. Oddly enough, I've been told by a couple professors that I write with a man's tone, whatever that is supposed to mean.

I've had professors say that to me, too. I think it's shorthand for "you don't dwell on emotionality." Because you know us ladies and our emotions.

I wondered about that! I've been trying to parse what list of famous writers they were working from, and it seems... well, like someone went to an Intro to Literature college class, then added a couple of names they knew (Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling).

I for one would love to know why two different blog entries of mine, written on the same topic, had one come up as J.K. Rowling and another come up as Chuck Palahniuk. I hope you hear from the creators. Bet it's completely random or does a word count or something.

I did hear from him, I replied a little bit to fourzoas above if you want to see my initial response to his response. I'll post more of what he said when I get home from work.

that's actually part of why i haven't done the meme.

I tried to do it a couple of days ago, way before it took off, and got frustrated at not being able to get a female author. But at the time, I assumed it was just me, since I had friends who'd gotten Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen and JK Rowling. After a full day of seeing the results bandied about, yeah, not impressed. Especially now that I see that they're not only almost all men, they're all white.

I thought the same thing, actually, which is why I DIDN'T post it on my journal (plus, it's obviously a completely random generator and doesn't "analyze" any writing... if so, then how do I write like two post-modern writers, a modern writer, and a Victorian writer all within ONE CHAPTER of my novel? I'm not THAT inconsistent...) I saw one woman's name pop up - Atwood (my writing was compared to hers, too) - and then, lots of dead white men. And people who barely pass as writers (in my stuck-up opinion, I guess), like Dan Brown - people who are popular, but not literary in any way.

The thing is obviously just a stupid, inaccurate generator, but the creator should have realized that - gasp! - more than just white guys have written a few good novels.

It isn't a random generator, actually, but it does work heavily based on what your word choice is. Like I said above, when I took the bit of "Treasure Island" which has Squire Trelawney in it, it said that Robert Louis Stevenson is like JK Rowling, who has a character named Professor Trelawney. So I think it's working on word choice rarity-- weighting rare words more toward one author or another. It also seems to be using sentence length, as I've noticed the shorter one's sentences, the more likely one is to get Dan Brown.

So basically they have about 20 authors in there, 2 white women and the rest white men, and just shift them around. Maybe I won't bother with this meme after all.

It's 40 authors, 3 white women, and 37 white men, but pretty much, yes.

Who do you get if you post a chicken story?

Computer aided content analysis (CATA) is considered a reputable way of analysizing data.
BUT - this meme is not really content analysis, just limited word choice and sentence length.
(My thesis is based on [manual] content analysis of Web sites; my advisor is literally the one who wrote the book on the subject. Ask away is you want more details on content analysis.)

Interesting. I submitted multiple samples and got Palahniuk fairly consistantly. I looked him up, and near as I can figure, it's because we both tend to write in present tense.

That makes sense. As far as I can tell, it uses vocabulary and having all those verbs in the present tense that no one else has would do it!

Me = Kurt Vonnegut
Barack Obama = Charles Dickens
Sarah Palin = Stephen King
Rush Limbaugh = Margaret Atwood
David Vitter = Dan Brown
Billy Nungesser = Stephen King
Mitch Landrieu = Stephen King
Kibo = Dan Brown

Also, Driftglass also has something to say about this.

Oooh, clever.

Thanks for the link, it's interesting to see what people are thinking about this.

Followed docbrite's link here. I didn't try what you did, but I tried putting in 3 of my blog posts, and got Stephen King on #1, and James Joyce on #3. Now, I'm not writing books and my mood can vary and possibly alter my style some, but I know my writing doesn't vary that damn much! What I'm assuming is that it simply tallies the number of some particular word/s that the creator attributes a high frequency of to that author, or something like that, because, yeah, it's totally crap.

(Deleted comment)
Margaret Mitchell, Mary Shelley, Ursula LeGuin and Stephenie Meyer have all been added since people started complaining. But he's been adding more male authors, too, and has yet to add any authors of color as of this writing.

how did they not have Toni Morrison? Didn't she get a Nobel Prize for Writing? i mean that's like the world saying she is a great author with staying power. we must have read at least 3 books by her in my high school

re the asserted white, male gender bias thing

(Anonymous)

2010-07-17 10:46 am (UTC)

Hello;
It is interesting that she entered the female writers and the analyzer (sp) came up with male authors. Actually, I had four women for the different styles I wrote out of the seven or eight or so. I would say my analyzer results were, given the greater number of famous male writers than females in the universe, was biased toward female authors. But, then, again, perhaps that is just something about me and how I look at the world, or not.
Sam

PS: Given the fame of the writers in the list, it would be interesting if the analyzer listed some main points as to what the likely reason was for their success in the market place. You know, target readers, demograghics, historical setting, etc., that kind of thing. Samuel Abram Helm

Re: re the asserted white, male gender bias thing

zia_narratora

2010-07-17 01:29 pm (UTC)

A few points.

1) The issue isn't just that I "got" all male authors. The issue is that getting more female authors wasn't possible because the creator declined to put them into the program. There weren't any more female authors *to* get as results. The fact that you happened to get them says that you share a lot of vocabulary with the writers he did choose, but the meme was more likely overall to choose men because the meme writer did not program more women into the meme until several days after the meme launched. But for you, there's no reason you would have noticed this bias, because of your results. And I think many people were in the same boat. Looking at a limited sample, it is hard to be aware of the bias.

Which is somewhat understandable when looking at classical authors, but in the modern marketplace, there are loads of extremely popular female authors and extremely famous female authors. Many of them are considered more important than some of the male authors on this list, and they weren't included.

I also want to address your point of there being more male than female authors, because that is not true. The point, and one of the ones I was trying to share by analyzing this meme is that history and popular consciousness has been biased toward preserving the work of male authors over the work of female authors, and revering it as greater work. It's not that female authors have not existed-- it's that the "great books" school of teaching literature has largely ignored them, to the point that the person putting this meme together clearly didn't even notice the bias he'd programmed into his meme. And it's important to address that point and criticize it within ourselves, not just within a single specific internet toy. I see criticizing the meme as a jumping off point for a larger introspection.

There's also the issue of the fact that there is not a single author of color at all. Again, yes, there are perhaps fewer authors of color who are respected as great authors, but there are many who are. Toni Morrison is one of the most revered authors in America. She has won a Nobel *and* a Pulitzer, yet she is not on this list.

There are two points by which to be distressed by this-- the fact that we, in general, are so influenced by the bias of our oppressive history that we don't even notice when women or authors of color are excluded, and the attitude and response of the meme creator that he doesn't have a responsibility to correct this bias, and that women and people of color should be happy to be represented by white men, and that it is racist and sexist on the the part of people with marginalized voices to say, "hey, we're being marginalized."

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