An anonymously written New York Times op-ed piece critical of the Trump White House was published on Wednesday. The author claims to be a senior official in the Trump White House.
Since then, a slew of senior officials have denied authorship. This raises the question: Can the identity of the anonymous writer be learned from an examination of his or her writing?
What will forensic linguists be studying to identify the author? Some details might include:
- The frequency with which particular words are used.
- The average word and sentence length.
- The average number of syllables per word.
- The frequency with which articles (a, an, and the) are used.
- The number of unique words.
- Repetition of unusual words or variations on well-known sayings.
- Regional or generational use of certain words.
- Repeated errors such as in spelling, in use of apostrophes, or in grammar.
- Sentence patterns.
Many crimes have been solved using the analysis of forensic linguists. But these specialists have erred too. They say it is easier to eliminate a suspected writer than to identify one.
No doubt forensic linguists are already busy comparing the anonymously written op-ed piece to known writings by senior White House officials.
Next: Some we’ll-known situations in which forensic linguists have proven authorship.