Project Topic: The statistical evolution of JK Rowling's writing compared to other English-language writers
- It is impossible to reduce writing style to a simple set of statistics. Still, writing, a process so complex and seemingly intuitive, is no more than the careful arrangement of a small set of fundamental letters and words. This project's goal is to study the evolution of that arrangement over time. JK Rowling may be the world's most famous author. In her Harry Potter series we have seen her grow from an unknown amateur writer into a Billionaire novelist. Much is made of how her books have grown too, her style more mature and "darker" with every edition. Stephen King commented on her use of adverbs in early books as a tell-tale sign of her immature style. It is my goal to chart the progression of her use of different parts of speech and different levels of difficulty in her writing of the first six Harry Potter books, to see if there is in fact a consistent evolution in her style, and to see if there are any similarities in her growth as a writer to other writers who have published consistently over time.
- This project will be approached through the careful analysis of passages from books both by JK Rowling and by other English-language writers. Words will be categorized by parts of speech and by their "SAT" difficulty and studied for their frequency in the six Harry Potter books published and in British and American writers.
- Does JK Rowling's use of different parts of speech change over time? And does that change match with changes in other contemporary writers? Can we chart a progression that will allow us to extrapolate the probable frequency of parts of speech in the seventh Harry Potter book?
- What we have found (after the project is complete).
In this project, random sentences were sampled from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter book series and the words in each sampled sentences are categorized. Peter Y was primarily interested in adverbs, inspired by a comment from Stephen King. In this study, Peter Y studied the time trend of adverbs in the sequence of HP books and compared JKR's usage of adverbs to Stephen King's. The results are not significant due to the small sample size (after all JKR only wrote 6 books so far). However, there is one thing that we could compare. Given the adverbs we sampled, what is the number of different adverbs used? S. King's comment was primarily about the fact the JKR uses a lot of different adverbs.