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The inner secrets of writing style

September 5, 2016

Matthew Wright

Literary historians have often had a niggling worry that the plays of William Shakespeare were actually written by somebody else – the Earl of Bedford is one favourite. And there are others.

Hobbit sign on the way back to the bus. Road signs on the Hobbiton Movie Set. Tolkien’s writing had specific styling which he changed to suit the mood, varying from narrative to epic.

My take is that they weren’t written by William Shakespeare, but by somebody else with the same name who was married to a famous Hollywood actress. But who listens to me?

Anyhow, the way these theories emerge is through painstaking analysis of the Immortal Bard’s writing style, which is then matched up against a similar micro-analysis of the style of somebody else. The technique is known as stylometry, and such delving into literary forensics is a specific skill. It’s often applied to pseudonymous works to identify the author behind the name. Computer programmes have…

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