I’ve been going through a very fascinating book by Ben Blatt called Nabakov’s Favorite Word is Mauve. This book quantifies commonly accepted writing norms and rules across well-known classics and best-sellers.
This post will talk about words that are present with more frequency in writing based on the gender of the author. I think you’ll find this fascinating. I know I did.
In his book, Nabakov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, Ben Blatt examines the types of words and actual words used most frequently by authors of different genders. He starts out simply by examining Facebook posts.
He starts out by citing a University of Pennsylvania that analyzed millions of Facebook, chatroom, Twitter and blog posts to see what words were being used most by each gender. A table of the results is shown below:
|Source||Lopsided usage by males||Lopsided usage by females|
|F*ck, League, Sh*t, F*cking, Shave||Shopping, Excited, <3, Boyfriend, Cute|
|Chat room emoticons||😉||😀|
|Twitter assent or negation terms||Yessir, Nah, Nobody, Ain’t||Okay, Yes, Yess, Yesss, Yessss, Nooo, Noooo, Cannot|
|Blogs||Linux, Microsoft, Gaming, Server, Software||Hubby, Husband, Adorable, Skirt, Boyfriend|
Another study from 2003 conducted by British computer scientists found that males use many more noun specifiers (a, this, these) while females use many more pronouns (I, yourself, their).
It might seem unlikely, but through this analysis, the scientists were able to create an algorithm that could predict an author’s gender with 80% accuracy just by looking at these characteristics.
Bratt extrapolated the methods used in these two studies and began examining classic fiction. He took 100 classic books, 50 by male and 50 by female authors and came up with the following results for frequency of words in descending order
Most Gender-Indicative Words in Classic Literature
Blatt then takes these words and does the reverse of his process to see how accurate an examination of both Classic and Best-Selling novels would be in predicting gender of the author. the results are interesting as shown in the following two tables. The errors are noted with an *.
|Most Masculine Classic Novels||Most Feminine Classic Novels|
|A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce||Ellen Foster – Kaye Gibbons|
|Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White||Rubyfruit Jungle – Rita Mae Brown|
|Orlando – Virginia Woolf*||A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess*|
|Animal Farm – George Orwell||Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston|
|The Shipping News – Annie Proulx*||The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger|
|Winesburg, Ohio – Sherwood Anderson||Bastard Out of Carolina – Dorothy Allison|
|Lord of the Flies – William Golding||The Color Purple – Alice Walker|
|Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand*||Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys|
|Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather*||Lady Chatterly’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence*|
|The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway||The Death of the Heart – Elizabeth Bowen|
|Most Masculine #1 Bestsellers||Most Feminine #1 Bestsellers|
|Inferno – Dan Brown||Kiss the Dead – Laurell K. Hamilton|
|The Fallen Angel – Daniel Silva||Power Play – Danielle Steel|
|The English Girl – Daniel Silva||Hit List – Laurell K. Hamilton|
|The Heist – Daniel Silva||Until the end of Time – Danielle Steel|
|Act of War – Brad Thor||Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn|
|Flash and Bones – Kathy Reichs*||Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty|
|The First Phone Call from Heaven – Mitch Albom||Dead Ever After – Charlaine Harris|
|Kill Alex Cross – James Patterson||New York to Dallas – J.D. Robb|
|Cross My Heart – James Patterson||Frost Burned – Patricia Briggs|
|The Time Keeper – Mitch Albom||Dead Reconing – Charlaine Harris|
This was an interesting topic to look at. Depending on the level of discussion, I may spill it over into another post as Blatt has a lot more to share on this subject.
I look forward to your comments.