Do you write like a girl?

By Andrea Karim on 20 April 2007 (Updated 9 June 2007) 9 comments

Based on some of the comments we get around here, it's safe to say that some of you might suspect me of possessing my very own pair of cajones. Attached ones, that is. Not, like, in a jar or something. Sicko.

Well, it turns out that there might be something to that. No, no, I'm not a man. Not even part man. Sure, I can beat you in an arm-wrestling competition without even using my arms, but I'm all woman, baby. Only apparently, I write like a man.

Fellow Wise Bread blogger, web admin, and all around studmuffin Greg Go just turned me on to what might possibly be the best and most interesting way to procrastinate online since Google Earth: The Gender Genie.

The Gender Genie is a nifty little program that uses a linguistic algorithm to determine whether or not a chunk of text has been written by a man or a woman. And it doesn't search for key words or anything - for instance, if you read the text above, you might believe that I'm a woman. But paste that text into the Gender Genie and submit it, and it comes back with a male score (albeit a close one).

On the internet, there is a new website that claims to be able to tell you, with 80% accuracy, whether a piece of writing has been done by a man or by a woman. It uses a computer programme developed by a team of Israeli scientists after an exhaustive study of the differences between male and female use of language.

One of their findings is that women are far more likely than men to use personal pronouns ("I", "you", "she", etc), whereas men prefer words that identify or determine nouns ("a", "the", "that") or that quantify them ("one", "two", "more"). According to Moshe Koppel, one of the authors of the project, this is because women are more comfortable thinking about people and relationships, whereas men prefer thinking about things. But the self-styled "stylometricians", in creating their gender-identifying algorithm, have been at pains to avoid the obvious.

The Gender Genie has been covered before, a long time ago, in all sorts of respectable publications, and so this isn't going to be incredible news to some of you, but hey - anything I can do to help you put off that investor presentation, eh?

Of course, now I'm obsessively pasting my articles into the Gender Genie to see just how big my cajones really are (by the way, when you try it out, don't use quoted material, because that will taint the results - just use the author's original writing). And my writing actually varies significantly from article to article. Even Paul seems to get in touch with his feminine side during the first few paragraphs of his Turn $1 into $100 in about 2 minutes post. Actually, even the Guardian found that most female columnists come across as male, according to the Gender Genie.

The whole thing kind of reminds me of that episode of This American Life in which the staff and a few regular contributors get their testosterone levels checked (starts around 33:20). Yes, I brought up This American Life, again (call me, Ira). Would a man obsessively promote something like This American Life? I ask you.

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Will Chen's picture

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: awesome!

Yup, sounds right to me. 

 

 

Paul Michael's picture

to be a modern man. Now I have to go and watch When Harry Met Sally while I curl up on the sofa with a tub of Rocky Road.

Guest's picture
Errol

I'm a guy but according to Gender Genie, I write like a girl. The female side outscored the male by a bit over a hundred points. And some of my relatives have commented that my handwriting doesn't look like a guy wrote it.

Last I checked in the restroom, I was definitely a guy. And straight. Never forget that last, but definitely important, tidbit.

Guest's picture
Zachary

Well, I do like chick flicks. I suppose it was only natural that I write like a girl, too.

Guest's picture
Guest

The Gender Genie is notoriously inaccurate.

Andrea Karim's picture

I think that, due to individual writing styles, it's very diffult to assume that the writer of a passage is one gender or the other. But it's fun, nonetheless.

Guest's picture

Wow...I tried 4 different samples of writing and they all came up definitely girl-ish except for 1 where it was maybe close enough to be a tie.

Funnily enough, this comment is also supposedly written like a girl.

Guest's picture
Guest

ha - he tthought i was a man five times!

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Joe Iriarte

You have your own pair of boxes?! o_O