Here's an interesting little test for those of you who wonder how you're coming across in your writing. This is a site that determines the gender of the writer by various incidental word expressions. Thanks to Holbrook, who resurrected this link for me when I couldn't find it in the SFFW ancient past.
Gender Test for Writing Style (http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.html)
Try submitting some of your writing when you are intending to write from the point of view of a character opposite to your gender. Works best on submissions of 500 words or more.
It gives you a percentage, so with some study you'll probably be able to change the style of writing you're using as you become more conscious of what little expressions make a difference in determining gender. But I haven't tried that yet, because I was one of the lucky people who came out "male" when writing from my opposite gender, and "female" when writing from my own point of view...so it may be harder than it seems to change one's writing style. I have a theory that many famous writers of either gender come out "male" no matter what - having tested a few.
I'm curious to read how this test comes out for you.
October 18th, 2004, 05:46 PM
What's the difference between your thread and Holbrooks?
October 18th, 2004, 09:50 PM
After reading the journal articles that this site is based on, I think there's a lot of misconceptions about what this test does and what the results mean.
The original articles were written by computer scientists and involved analyzing pronouns and sentence structure as part of an automatic library classification system. The authors analyzed 566 documents by various writers and developed an algorithm that could predict gender with 80% accuracy. 80% isn't a great correlation, but it's probably not bad for something as subjective as writing.
Now this method may work for a computer, but I question whether it applies to people, which is what we're concerned with. The authors do not compare their results to those obtained by people reading the documents. They also do not identity what, if anything, actual people use when they try to determine the gender of a writer.
I don't know about you all, but when I read I don't go through a book and analyze pronouns and sentence structure. If someone hands me a book and asks me what gender the author is, I'm more likely to judge based on the subject, content, and the feelings/emotions I get. The algorithm that they developed is probably invisible to a typical reader and would never be used by an actual person to determine gender.
I noticed in the other thread that a lot of women were finding that their writing was determined to be male. I'm guessing that it's probably due to the limitations of the algorithm rather than anything to do with the actual writing. The documents that the authors used appear to be mostly non-fiction and mainstream literature, not genre fiction. In sci-fi and fantasy, it's pretty imperative to include lots of description because there are many objects/ideas that the reader will be encountering for the first time. The algorithm seems to think that description is a male characteristic, so there you go.
I wouldn't recommend changing your writing style based on the online test. If you're concerned about the gender you write as, it's probably better to focus on things that the reader will actually notice, like subject, content, and emotion.
October 18th, 2004, 11:54 PM
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)
Female Score: 1118
Male Score: 1118
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is a: Robot!
Damn that program is good. No human has ever seen through my disguise.
Guess you gotta hand it to us machines! ;)
October 19th, 2004, 10:06 PM
I found it best to put in a passage that's not about just a male or a female character, because it counts "his, he" and "her, she" heavily as "male" or "female" words. Neutral description of scenery or a passage with both a male and a female character seems to give a fairer assessment.