What Gender is Your Writing?

Okay, so men and women are different. We all know this. Once in a while political issues make us say things like, “We’re really not that different!”, but then scientists come in and pretty succintly inform us that we are different. Our brains are somewhat different, our bodies take slightly different shapes, our drives in many respects are different.

And, apparently, this affects how we write. A bit of software out there on the net, called the Gender Genie, can analyse a text and with a pretty impressive degree of accuracy tell you whether the author is male or female. The basis of this seems to be a keyword search. Certain kinds of words are used a lot by men, and others are used more by women.

I’ve just entered this post and found that the male:female ratio is 520:444. OF course, this text only had about half as many as the optimal number of words for analysis. But it’s pretty consistent with other posts I’ve analyzed. I’ll try my whole blog front page now, and the results are, male:female ratio 10048:5156. So my blogging is very clearly male. But…

An interesting thing is that it isn’t so accurate with poetry. My blog posts get a pretty consistent reading of being written by a male. But some of my poems have come off very very clearly “written by a female”. Even the translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s poem gets a score of male:female 51:315. Interesting! This makes me think that when we write poems, we’re actually, neurologically, doing something quite different than when we write (prosaically) about our daily lives. It’s not surprising, I already thought so after all, but for a scientist to agree would be a cool thing.

Also, I decided to look into how ESL users use English. I only have one person on my blogroll who posts in English as a second language, but when she posts, the Gender Genie claims, she uses somewhat male vocabulary. That’s interesting. I’m sometimes told that in Korean, I use female vocabulary… men sometimes correct me to get me to speak more manly Korean. What can I say, my first teachers were both women. I suppose in a second language one tends to express what one learns how to express, and so one’s diction is limited… one’s discursive style is probably shaped by teachers. Hm. And I think one expressed what one can in another language. I limit myself in Korean, as I did in French, to stuff I can actually say. This probably has an effect on the results of keyword analysis. But I don’t know enough to say more… hmm.

Anyway, go on ahead and play with it. It’s quite interesting.

I found the link to this toy on Adam’s site. Thanks Adam!

4 thoughts on “What Gender is Your Writing?

  1. Gord, I am just about throw you a curve ball. I am not sure that English can accurately be described as my second language. Sure, it’s not my mother tongue but I learnt it more or less at the same time that I learnt Hindi. I certainly learnt English long before I learnt Urdu or Sanskrit or any other of the languages I have a vague familiarity with. My English teachers were mostly female – in the twelve years that I studied English as a subject, I have had only one male teacher.

    With that background, here are my Gender Genie scores:

    Female Score: 569
    Male Score: 1249

    Umm, these were the most ‘feminine’ scores I got.

  2. Interesting! Of course, you weren’t the person I was talking about… I pretty much assumed you grew up speaking English. And of course my scores were pretty high on the feminine side, too. Not enough to put me into female-writer guesses, but pretty high!

    I kind of suspect that exposure to non-English grammars, or an interest in writing, tends to jeopardize the more habitual use of language that these algorithms are testing for. You know what I mean?

    I also think that many female and male writers alike tend to move more towards the middle, or beyond it, I think, as a way of neutralizing their written voices. They learn to use more of the language to increase their expressivity. For example, I think from what I saw that men are supposedly more likely to “declare” something where women will likely qualify it, or note an observation. There’s a layer of consciously made choice in writing, even in blogging, that interferes with what these people might be looking for… especially when it’s someone who knows what they are doing in the act of writing.

    What would be more interesting would be to test spoken language, where a lot of ornamentation and fine detail are lost to expediency, and where word choice and sentence structure are decided on the fly.

  3. I would appear to be male.

    I posted this on my blog, and I’m not repeating myself, but… heh. Well. I threw the damned thing four blog posts, two story excerpts, and two nonfiction articles, and it only identified me as female twice.

    And kept telling me I was butch. I’m not, you know.

    *is amused*

  4. wait… kat… you mean you’re telling me you’re a girl? like, for real?

    just kidding. I remember the picture. vaguely. tho it’s lost now, of course…

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