"I Write Like," the Internet Timesuck Du Jour. This handy little Web site allows users to upload a writing sample -- and then receive the flattering news that, in fact, their writing style is just like James Joyce! Or William Shakespeare!
But then we uploaded a sampling of our writing and were told that we write like Stephenie Meyer. Stephenie Meyer??? As in, Twilight? As in, we should be writing for tweens? At that point, we knew we had to debunk "I Write Like" -- or quit journalism entirely.
As it turns out, debunking was almost too easy.
And while none of these writers were so unfortunate as to get the Stephenie Meyer treatment, our results surely proved for once and for all that "I Write Like" is completely worthless.
For example: We plugged in an excerpt from Tennessee Williams' famous "A Streetcar Named Success" essay -- and we were told that the greatest playwright of his generation actually writes like someone named H.P. Lovecraft. Huh?? He's apparently a science fiction writer. Which makes no sense: When Blanche DuBois spoke of the kindness of strangers, she did not mean ones from another planet. Obviously.
So we tried T.S. Eliot -- the St. Louis-raised poet and voice of his generation. And we didn't go for the obscure Eliot either: We actually uploaded a sample from what's arguably his most famous poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
Apparently, "Prufrock" reads just like the work of Charles Dickens. Who knew that Martin Chuzzlewit was one step away from poetry??
Pressing on, we gave the site a sample from Jonathan Franzen. That hometown boy was said to write like Kurt Vonnegut. Hmmmph.
Finally, we uploaded a recent column from local antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly into the "I Write Like" magic machine. This column was all about how great the Tea Party is, how much the Constitution must reign supreme, blah blah blah. Yet somehow our Web site thought that old Phyllis sounded just like ... Stephen King.
Yep, apparently the musings of a right-wing columnist have a lot in common with the brilliant horror of "The Shining." (Come to think of it, Schlafly's essay did kind of remind us of that scene where Shelly Duvall walks in on Jack Nicholson writing his "novel" and instead of narrative, it's ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY over and over and over again ...)
Suffice it to say, our brief experiment has done quite a bit to make us feel better about our own assessment. If T.S. Eliot writes like Charles Dickens, and Phyllis Schlafly writes like Stephen King, surely our stylings have nothing in common with those of Stephenie Meyer.
Right? Please? Right?