Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Mark Zuckerberg and his writing style

A little while back, a linguist was called to provide a judgement in the case over the ownership of Facebook. This linguist, Gerald R. McMenamin, had to say whether Zuckerberg really did write some emails that it was alleged that he had. McMenamin did this by comparing them with some emails known to have been written by Zuckerberg, and noting points of difference. I don't know what his methodology was (e.g. did he identify the criteria first, or just see what jumped out at him?) but the results were quite interesting. 

A) Questionable Zuckerberg writes:
"doesnt," "parents" (parents'), "sites" (site's = contraction for “site is”), and "sites" (site's = possessive)
B) Real Zuckerberg's contractions and possessives are all used correctly.     
Suspension Points [ellipsis]
A) Questionable Zuckerberg writes:“. . . I've been tweaking the search engine today,” with spaces in between his suspension points.
B) Real Zuckerberg doesn't space out his suspension points. For example: “So let me know…”
A) Questionable Zuckerberg writes these words as follows:“back end” (two words), “internet” (lower case “I”), and “can not” (two words)
B) Real Zuckerberg writes:“backend” (one word), “Internet” (capital “i”), and “cannot” (one word)
Syntax: Single-Word Sentence Openers
A) Questionable Zuckerberg opens his sentences with the following:Further,Additionally,Thus,Again,First,Mostly though,Paul,
B) Real Zuckerberg opens his sentences more casually:OkayAndAnyhow,Also,ButBut regardlessThenHowever
Signing Off
A) Questionable Zuckerberg closes his e-mails with “Thanks!”
B) Real Zuckberg, however, also closes his e-mails with “Thanks!”
The things that occur in the 'questionable Zuckerberg' emails are mostly more non-standard - incorrect apostrophes, for instance, or spacing out the ellipsis (three dots...). Presumably, the person that allegedly faked these emails had received genuine emails from Zuckerberg at some point,, so they can't have been doing that careful a job of copying them. 
Full report here

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