Thieves may leave fingerprints at the scene of a crime. But does an author leave a metaphorical fingerprint on the book? The answer may be yes, according to a study published in the New Journal of Physics.
Swedish physicists investigated how frequently authors use new words in their writing. This, they say, offers clearly identifiable patterns. The research goes against a belief held for more than 75 years that there’s a sort of universality to how frequently authors use new words.
Researchers analyzed books by Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence and Herman Melville. They looked at full novels, parts of novels, and a mishmash of an author’s work. In each case, they found a regular, and distinct, pattern of how frequently each writer used new words.
Of course, the frequency of new words used drops off in longer novels, but the patterns of the drop-off differed and were specific to each of the three authors. The researchers call this concept a "meta-book"—a kind of personal code that would fit any book or any work an author ever writes. Seems like to understand writers’ complete works, you have to analyze their complete words.