Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Write like a girl?

Crash said I screamed like a girl when Fluffy dropped a mouse in my lap...but how do I write?

The Gender Genie claims to be able to discriminate between male and female writing. The algorithm tracks the occurrences of key words. Among its underlying assumptions are that women are more likely to use pronouns and a particular set of noun modifiers than are men. The male style tends more toward the "informational" while women's styles are more likely to center on how information is embedded in context and connections between information. As the authors succinctly put it, women's writing resembles fiction (even when writing non-fiction) and men's non-fiction.

What does Gender Genie think of my writing? It asks for samples of more than 500 words. I fed it a couple of longer entries from this blog (here and here), an op-ed I wrote and I come up male every time. I wonder if I write this way because I'm a scientist or am a scientist because I write this way?

6 comments:

  1. Or, does the Gender Genie label informative-scientific writing as male because, given current gender balance, such writing is relatively more likely to be written by males?

    I've often wondered about these things too. Gender Genie has always identified my writing samples as male too. Even fiction.

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  2. Hmmm. Remind me what voice part you sing? Maybe you "screamed like a girl" b/c you have a girl's vocal cords. :) (Well, b/c you have a female hormone balance, which dictates your range, etc, etc.)

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  3. kb...I actually downloaded the paper describing the research that Gender Genie is based on, but haven't read it! (Just like my students...)

    sm...I sing mezzo soprano these days, but my range goes way down (I was a contralto until I took voice lessons and my teacher pushed my range farther up than I ever might have imagined!) I think I screamed like a girl because Fluffy dropped a LIVE mouse into my knitting and I was so startled I went over backwards in the chair!!

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  4. Wow, I didn't realize they had a paper up explaining that. I think I'll download it and fail to read it too! :)

    "I think I screamed like a girl because Fluffy dropped a LIVE mouse into my knitting and I was so startled I went over backwards in the chair!!"

    What an image. You had a right to scream.

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  5. I think I tried it once, but I can't remember the results. I don't know how accurate it is, but it's fun anyway.

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  6. I bet Crash would've screamed "like a girl" too. ;-) - Stasa

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