Formula Follows the Evolution of Writing Styles

Formula Follows the Evolution of Writing Styles

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How does literary style evolve? Surprisingly, clues lie in words with seemingly little meaning, such as “to” and “that”. By analyzing how writers use such “content-free” words, mathematician Daniel Rockmore and colleagues at Dartmouth College were able to conduct the first, large-scale “stylometric” analysis of literature.

Content-free words are indicative of writing style, Rockmore says. While two authors might use the same words to describe a similar event, they will use content-free “syntactic glue” to link their words in a different way. Interestingly, the research team found that writers are most influenced by their contemporaries rather than the great works of the past.

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