What Your Writing Says About You

This book may hold a clue to a real life mystery.

What does one’s writing or writing style say about you? Plenty.

Your writing sample or college admission essay might be able to predict whether or not you will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

NPR reports that a comprehensive study of Agatha Christie’s works suggests that she suffered from dementia.  The study, which was conducted by Ian Lancashire, an English professor at the University of Toronto, compares Agatha Christie’s early writing to her later work.  The findings suggest that Agatha Christie may have developed Alzheimer’s prior to writing one of her last books —

When Lancashire looked at the results for Christie’s 73rd novel, written when she was 81 years old, he saw something strange. Her use of words like “thing,” “anything,” “something,” “nothing” – terms that Lancashire classifies as “indefinite words” – spiked. At the same time, number of different words she used dropped by 20 percent. “That is astounding,” says Lancashire, “that is one-fifth of her vocabulary lost.”

Lancashire theorizes that these changes in Christie’s writing evidence signs of dementia.  The novel that Mr. Lancashire primarily relies is her 73rd — Elephants Can Remember, which features a protagonist who is losing her memory.  It seems that Christie was aware  of what was happening to her.

Siouxsie, by the way, is proud to say that she has read every single Agatha Christie novel.  Though the plots and characters escape her now.  Eeek.

That is not all.  There is at least one study to suggest that there is a connection between someone’s early writings and Alzheimer’s, reports NPR.  The famous “Nun Study” by David Snowdon at the University of Minnesota looked at writing samples from over 600 nuns.  The samples were written when the nuns were about the age of 20.  According to the study, the linguistic ability of the nuns in early life correlated with with low cognitive test scores and Alzeimer’s disease, 50 to 70 years later —

Idea density turns out to be an astonishingly powerful predictor of Alzheimer’s disease – at least among the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Snowdon found by reading nuns’ early writings, he could predict, with 85% to 90% accuracy, which ones would show the brain damage typical of Alzheimer’s disease about 60 years later.

On a less ominous note, your writing can reveal things that are more fun.   Take, for example, the “I Write Like” machine, which lets you input a sample of someone’s writing to see what famous author they write like.  Siouxsie took samples from some of her favorite bloggers and look what she found (in no particular order):

Siouxsie Law:  Margret Atwoood

David Lat:  David Foster Wallace

Scott Greenfield:  Ian Fleming

La Carmina:  H.P. Lovecraft

Marc Randazza:  H.P. Lovecraft

Bryan Garner:  Bryan Garner

Ann Althouse:  Kurt Vonnegut

Eric Turkewitz:  David Foster Wallace

Trashtastika:  Stephanie Meyer (sorry)

Caveat Calcei:  David Foster Wallace

P.S.  A  New York Times blogger notes when she entered her last blog post the generator said she wrote like Edgar Allen Poe.  Awesome.  But when a friend plugged in a writing sample of Edgar Allen Poe, the analyzer said it sounded like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Tiny Top Hat Tip:  Sarah M.

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~ by siouxsielaw on July 16, 2010.

7 Responses to “What Your Writing Says About You”

  1. I got David Foster Wallace when I put my latest blog post in. Though I’m starting to think they have a limited number of people. I’m not sure it really means all that much to know I write like David Foster Wallace. Then again at least it wasn’t Steph Meyer.

    • It seems a lot of folks write like DFW.
      There are only 49 authors in the database. And when Margaret Atwood plugged her own writing in, the result was Stephen King. Not useful or accurate at all, but a fun meme nevertheless.

  2. Haha. I wonder what about Stephen King and Margaret Atwood thought about that.

  3. I love Margaret Atwood. I have never read David Foster Wallace although now I wonder if I should. So perhaps DFW has ‘sponsored’ his prolific appearance in the results?

    Fun, thought provoking post. And the blog love is mutual.

  4. That meme thing was fascinating!! Until the actual facts got in the way… I also think I have read everything Agatha’s written – some twice over! And still forget the endings and plot twists sometimes. Nowadays I watch those UK telemovies on her books, like “Ordeal by Innocence”

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