The obscure word of the week is stylometry

look_it_up_T httpwww.clipartpal.comclipart_pdeducationdictionary_10586.htmlThere are over a million words in English. Most of them are quite obscure and deserve better attention than they get. This week’s is stylometry.

It’s the statistical analysis of literary style. It’s thanks to stylometry, for instance, that we know William Shakespeare’s plays weren’t written by him, but by another William Shakespeare who lived at the same time.

Your challenge? Write a sentence (or two) in the comments using this word.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


5 thoughts on “The obscure word of the week is stylometry

  1. So I’m wondering if stylometry would ever indicate that works by different authors were by a single author. That is, if sticking to writing rules and the conventions of a particular genre would blur individual styles. Or would individuality be distinguishable regardless?

    1. As I understand it – and on my own experiences of style analysis – individual quirks remain distinctive, they can be as specific as certain wording usages and the wider frameworks of genre wouldn’t make a difference – I gather that ‘Robert Galbraith’ was ‘outed’ as J K Rowling on just such a stylometric analysis, even before the story had leaked in other ways. But if the author deliberately works to emulate a specific style that task might be harder. That ability to write ‘in the style of’ is a skill that all writers need to gain – it’s a handy one because it teaches so much about how writing works generally.

      The best example I can think of here is Churchill’s war memoir, which was as much an assembly as a writing job for him – he had a team of people working for him doing the research and drafting a lot of the narrative, to which he added his personal comments and experiences if he’d been there. Apparently they competed with each other to most closely emulate the great man’s wonderfully oratorial writing style. While he edited all their work anyway for consistency, the evidence is that he didn’t edit it by much.

      1. I think when writing freely, one can’t avoid having a distinctive style, especially when analyzed as you’ve said. I was thinking of “formulaic” writing, such as is (was once?) required in the romance genre. Even then, I suspect individual quirks would remain, which is encouraging for some reason.

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