Forensic stylistics in an online world
Forensic stylistics is the examination of style in language for the purpose of resolving litigated questions relating to disputed authorship or meaning. Forensic stylistics has been presented as evidence in a wide range of legal cases, mostly concerning the identity of the author of a document. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the use and potential of forensic stylistics in legal cases, with particular attention to analysing online activities. A review of previous legal cases where stylistics has proved significant is followed by a brief review of quantitative stylistics. The remainder of the paper discusses two empirical studies on the usefulness of a proposed simple stylistics technique, which claims 80% accuracy on determining the gender of the author just by counting the frequency of a small number of keywords. It is concluded that this technique only works in some domains of discussion, but does have some potential for initial scanning of large bodies of text.