Saturday, 24 October 2009

Do you write like a man or a woman?

I've just discovered a fascinating site called The Gender Genie. You paste more than 500 words of your writing into a box, and the site analyzes it and tells you whether you write like a woman or a man.

I tried it with the first chapter of Heart of Rock (was Catch a Falling Star) and the first chapter of Heart of Bone, my work in progress. Interesting results:

Heart of Rock: Female: 3345 Male: 3986 - I write like a man.

Heart of Bone: Female: 2597 Male: 2561 - I write like a woman (just).

Have a go and let me know how you get on.


  1. Fascinating. I tried three passages, each from a different book. I came out as Female in the first piece. It is written first person supposedly by a female, so I was pleased about that. The second was a chapter in a third person book but the POV is female and that came out just on the fe,ale side, 4070 female to 4004 male. The third piece is from the same book but a chapter with a male POV, unfortunately that came out as female too.
    The one with the heaviest weight towards female was the one written first person, so that gives me some hope, I guess.
    I have a nasty feeling it could become slightly addictive. At the moment I tend to run reading age software on most of my stuff, trying to make sure that the teenagers don't talk like professors.

  2. Then I had another idea, and tried a piece from my blog, the last piece I wrote as it happens and I get about 900 male to 300 female. I feel better already, when I'm writing as me I'm male, when I'm trying to write a female part I come out female. Of course it's way too few observations to realy believe it, and anything I write now will be biased by knowing, and al that stuff. Anyway thanks for the link, It's given me a lift - silly - but it has.

  3. I write like a woman. But I kept pasting different things written in different voices until I found something that tells me it's written like a man.

    A random blog entry is very definitely written like a man.

    It was fun, but at this stage I'm thinking it's a load of old codswallop!

  4. Thanks for giving me something else to worry about, Lexi! I came out as convincingly female in 3rd person narrated fiction, just about female in 1st person narrated fiction (a shame when one of the pieces was meant to be a man), convincingly female in a non-fiction piece, but strongly male in my blog posts.

    I can assure everyone I'm female and will try to make my blogging more frilly in future!

  5. Were this a competition, Rod would be the winner, clearly. Rod, your observations made me try the first chapter of Trav Zander, which has a male protagonist; F: 4553 M: 4037. Dear me. I’ve never heard of reading age software. I’m off to look on the internet.

    Stace, you may have a point – but years ago I read an article on this topic, which had a series of extracts at the end for you to guess the sex of the writer. I got them all right. My smugness at this may be why I remember it…

    K, stop worrying! Who needs to be frilly? Away with gender stereotyping!

  6. Maybe coming across as androdgynous (sp?) is a good thing? Might appeal to a wider audience. Or, in trying to be all things to all readers, might appeal to no one. Hmmm.

  7. It's just occurred to me that perhaps the way I write may be why some readers do not immediately realize my first-person narrator is female - but then again, I think it's also to do with my not espousing 'girly' attitudes.

  8. Ha ha, yes well I'm sure there is such a thing as writing with a female voice and a male one. I recently wrote something in first person from a male's point of view and while women liked it, men told me the protagonist sounded gay.

    So there you go.

    I took a look at the list of words they have used to do the formula and I don't think it's a long enough list.

    I would add 'maeve' and 'lovely' as distinctively feminine words: any nuance of colour and description, in fact.

  9. Hi Lexi

    I couldn't resist this either... so put the first chapter of TAR in.

    Very interesting result, esp given my book is suppossed to be a male thriller:

    Female score: 1402
    Male score: 1120

    It guessed I was a female writer!

    What am I to make of this? Perhpas I shld put more of the book in...


  10. Stace, I have a deep voice and I occasionally get mistaken for a man on the phone, particularly if I'm being brisk with someone trying to sell me something. This is disconcerting, and I always long to ask them if I come over as a straight male, or a bit camp.

    Guy, I think this shows you are a sensitive writer, alert to the nuances many men miss. Take it as a compliment.

  11. I think we all have to thank Lexi for this post – such an interesting conversation. We are all obviously concerned about what our writing says about the writer, but does this help us to write better?

    For anyone interested in the actual research that this is based on here is a link:-
    It only took me about half an hour to find by searching the CVs of the original authors. I haven’t read it in detail but interestingly it says that it can spot gender 80% of the time and the algorithm is even better at telling the difference between fiction and non-fiction – it gets that right 98% of the time. If fiction and non-fiction are more different than men and women, I begin to see why I had to work so hard to write fiction after a lifetime writing non-fiction.

  12. Perhaps it's just easier to tell fiction from non-fiction than to tell a man from a woman.

    No, that can't be right...

  13. Interesting to hear you have a deep voice - that's not what I imagined!

    I think that would be the one advantage to taking up the fags. When random people call here they ask to speak to my parents. I say they're not around, without a word of a lie. This always gets rid of people I never wanted to talk to anyway. And possibly some that I do.

  14. This is obviously a topic that could go off in almost any direction. On deep voices, I normally would not quote Mrs Thatcher as a role model but she did manage to deepen her voice without taking up smoking.

  15. Stace, 'taking up the fags' - what does this mean? I've never heard it before. I'm now imagining you with a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice.

    I can see why, as the first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher wanted to give an impression of gravitas among all those scheming men. If you want to succeed, it's a good idea to do everything you can that may help. (I don't smoke, and my mother said strangers used to burst out laughing at my deep voice when I was a tiny blonde child.)

  16. Surely if you are a serious writer who knows anything at all about women and men, you should be able to decide whether to write like a man or a woman and just do it?

    But equally surely . . . the best way to get published these days is to be a "celeb". Then it matters not that you write trash or are functionally illiterate, because Harper Collins or whoever will "ghost" the book for you. e.g Paul Gascoine, Anne Widdicombe, Victoria Beckham . . and going back to my distant youth, Mary Wilson wife of Harold, whose poetry was tripe.

  17. Doctor FTSE, yes, that's how it works (I'm writing like a woman now, can you tell?) Equally, I'm sure you just decide to make a fortune on the stock exchange, and bingo!

    Re celebrity books, I think I can speak for all unpublished authors when I say we are against them. My especial ire is reserved for the ones who do write their own books, badly (yes, Sandi Toksvig, I am looking at you) and of course get a publishing deal. At least ghost-written books are competently written, and benefit the ghost writer.

  18. I think you can add Stella Rimmington to the list. She may have been good at running MI5, though we can't tell because it is a secret, but why has some idiot publisher allowed her to write spy thrillers. Surely she could have made some extra pocket money by acting as an advisor to thriller writers who could write. They obviously figure that her name will sell books, the fact that they are wooden with virtually no character development obviously doesn't concern them. Eat your heart out creative writing schools.

  19. I would love to know the sales figures for celebrity books; whether the cynicism of publishers pays off. Four out of ten of the Travelodge's Books Left Behind Index, 2009, are celebrity efforts (Jordan is at number one).

    Re Anne Widdecombe's romantic novels, I believe she does write them herself. I've just taken a look at An Act of Treachery and it's not too bad, though it starts with three solid pages of 'tell', and there's some awkward sentences.

  20. Feel free to imagine a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice, Lexi, though not quite that either! More just the annoyance of being mistaken for somebody much younger than I am. I'm told to make the most of this, but end up feeling condescended to a lot of the time.

    Perhaps this is also why many of us don't enjoy books written by celebrity ghost writers.

    All of this is not enough of an annoyance for me to take up smoking, however.

  21. For my short story, "Dark Woods Duel":

    Female Score: 986
    Male Score: 1165

    Thanks for the link, Lexi.

  22. Ooh no, Stace, smoking ages you from the inside.

    Norm, I think of you as a very masculine man; I can't imagine you writing from a female POV, though I expect you have.

  23. Fascinating.

    Female 686
    Male 543

    But then I chose a section which I thought should show more of the hero's motives and it came up with Female 935 and Male 973. So I'm a happy bunny. Oh sorry, I did read the bit about clichés higher up the page but I take so long to learn...

  24. Hi Anna!

    I fear you may have picked up happy bunny from me - hand it back now and no more will be said.

  25. I tend to rate male on my erotica, female on my crime fiction. Precisely the opposite of what I'd intended.

    I also wonder what it says about me that in nearly every case, one gender barely beats out the other. Perhaps my inner male and female are engaged in constant battle for supremacy.

  26. Thanks for visiting the blog, Copper.

    I think it's probably good to be a bit non-typical, in every way. I dislike being pigeon-holed.

  27. There's a similar site called I Write Like ( that tells you what famous writer you write like.

    I've got my results posted at my blog Uppercut Avenue. I'm curious about how others rated.

  28. Hi Copper.

    Yes, I tried that; Harry Harrison, Nabakov and Raymond Chandler. I was happy with Raymond Chandler, and stopped there.

  29. Hmm, I tried that. It says I write like Dan Brown, who I always thought was rubbish. On the other hand, he does make a lot of money.

  30. That'll be because your book's a thriller, I expect. The system is looking for certain trigger words, among other things.

    You could have tried again with another extract until you got an author you admire like I did...