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What kind of writer are you?

Writing styles are as distinct as personality traits—and debates about which way of writing is “best” can often be just as volatile. Where one writer might luxuriate in the complexities and varieties of the lexicon, another might prefer to tell it like it is in the most familiar way possible. Such was the case, in fact, with celebrated novelist William Faulkner, who famously griped that his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, “had never been known to use a word that might send his reader to the dictionary.” Hemingway retorted, “Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.” It’s neither productive nor accurate to argue over whether or not there can even be a “best” style of writing, but it is certainly entertaining to figure out which one we most prefer.

To celebrate the publication of the Oxford American Writers Thesaurus, Third Edition, we invite you to explore the world of word choice. Do you fashion yourself a champion of Plain English or do you like readers to have to jump through hoops of meaning to understand your prose? Find out what kind of writer you are, or aspire to be, by taking our interactive synonym quiz below:

What kind of writer are you?

William Faulkner

Game Over

You’re a William Faulkner. You chose flowery and formal words commonly used by literary novelists and poets. Other writers known for florid diction are F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Eliot, and Edgar Allan Poe. You dream of Nobel Prizes and National Book Awards every night.

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Ernest Hemingway:

Game Over

You’re an Ernest Hemingway. You chose clear and unflashy words that get right to the point. Other writers known for this style are George Orwell and Raymond Carver. Try your hand at a six-word memoir, consider a career in journalism, and maintain an active Twitter account.

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Toni Morrison

Game Over

You’re a Toni Morrison. You chose informal or slang words that indicate a preference for writing in the vernacular. Other novelists known for their informal prose are Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, and J.D. Salinger. If novel writing isn’t your cup of tea, dabble in some blogging or draft a dialogue-heavy script for film or television.

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Vladimir Nabokov

Game Over

You’re a Vladimir Nabokov. You chose esoteric and technical words that would drive most readers straight to their nearest dictionary. Other novelists known for their use of obscure or difficult language are Thomas Pynchon and Zadie Smith. A career in academia or science writing might suit your tastes.

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Which of these synonyms would you choose to describe an overweight person?
A Corpulent
B Corn-fed
C Fat
D Endomorphic
Which word would you prefer to describe someone who is ready to eat?
A Ravenous
B Piggy
C Hungry
D Esurient
Which of the following is your favorite word to describe a person with extremely high self-regard?
A Vainglorious
B Stuck-up
C Proud
D Orgulous
Which of these synonyms would you choose to describe a woman who is expecting a baby?
A With child
B Knocked up
C Pregnant
D Gravid
Which of the following is your favorite word for the place where a person lives?
A Domicile
B Digs
C Home
D Resiance
What word would you use to describe someone who is no longer alive?
A Deceased
B Six feet under
C Dead
D Exanimate
Which of these synonyms would you choose to refer to sexual intercourse?
A Copulation
B Nookie
C Sex
D Coition
Which of these synonyms would you use to describe something with an unpleasant odor?
A Noisome
B Funky
C Smelly
D Olid
Which of the following is your favorite word for a beautification product applied to the face?
A Maquillage
B War paint
C Makeup
D Lustrification
Which of these words would you choose to describe an unhappy person?
A Dolorous
B Down in the dumps
C Sad
D Niobean
Which is your preferred word to describe a drama with overblown emotions?
A Maudlin
B Schmaltzy
C Sentimental
D Saccharescent
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