Monday, February 28, 2011

Do You Write Like a Dude?

Me: "Hey, I'm sorry you didn't get any of the pasta last night."

My son: "Dude, I didn't mind. I'm glad the guests liked it so much."

Yes, my son calls me dude. All the time. In fact, my three teenagers (including my daughter) all call me dude, and I kinda like it.

You see, in many ways I am a dude.Way more dude than chick.

Got a problem? I will immediately try to find a solution, rather than "listen empathetically" and "reflect your feelings back to you."

The only time I cry is when someone I love is dying or dead.

Want to go clothes shopping or antiquing? Ask someone else. I chew my cuticles bloody in a store, like a trapped animal trying to free itself.

I physically can't sit like this:

I don't giggle, I laugh from the belly.
My mom says I walk "like a truck." 
I will try to kill you on a tennis court.
I think flirting is stupid. Instead, I asked my husband to marry me on our third date.

You'd think this means that I write like a dude, too. But apparently my forceful personality is not the key predictor of whether my fiction writing will be masculine or feminine in nature.

According to a research paper by Shlomo Argamon of The Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and Moshe Koppel of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, women tend to use more pronouns and relational words (I, you, she, mine, yours, with, for), while men use more noun specifiers (a, the, some, it, that, these). That is, independent of subject matter, female prose exhibits characteristics identified by researchers as being more "involved" (relating to how things are connected) and male writing uses features that are more "informational" (relating to the things themselves).

By taking samples of fiction and adding and subtracting points for the use of key "masculine" and "feminine" words, Argamon and Koppel predict the genders of the authors with 80% accuracy. (Note that this predictive power doesn't work for non-fiction writing, which is more similar between the sexes.)

The New York Times published a simplified algorithm of what the researchers did, but you'll have more fun using the Gender Genie created by the folks at

So, scientifically speaking, do I write like a chick, or a dude? Well, the Argamon-Koppel analyses of the first chapter of both my current young-adult manuscript and my current middle-grade manuscript both end with the chipper news: "...the author of this passage is: female!"

Yes, they caught me. The real truth is, I sometimes cry at the end of novels.


  1. However, the score for this post is "dude" all the way.

  2. this was a good read, i like assertive women.