Monday, 21 March 2011

He wrote/she wrote

Take a look at this interesting site:

And read this article in the New York Times:

And the algorithm:

Then waste a significant amount of time testing this and tell me what you discover.

I discovered that all of my academic and professional writing in the last two years -- articles, reports, evaluations -- was judged to be written by a male. Even the more touchy-feely qualitative work was judged to be written by a male. Okay then. Perhaps academics are trained to write in a traditionally "male" way.

I then selected two blog entries. One was a more scholarly piece: Learning the Vernacular that given the above, I expected would be judged as "male". The other was my entry on the "episode of the snake in our ceiling" which is a more descriptive piece. Both pieces were assessed as having been written by a male.

When I entered a longish passage from my novel, the judgment was that it was written by a female.

I'm not quite sure what I can learn from this. Is my more successful, i.e., professionally validated writing, successful because it is written in a more "male" way? Is it a consequence of environmental factors that I write differently in different contexts? Is academia socialised to favour male behaviour? Where does my blogging fit into this? And how is it that I transition to a more "feminine" writing style in my novel? Would my writing efforts be more successful if I approached fiction in the same way as I approach report writing and blogging? Is there something in non-fiction that is more inherently male than in fiction?

Many more questions than I have answers for at this time and perhaps ever. But plenty of food for thought.

1 comment:

Vivi said...

I haven't spent a lot of time with the site, but when I was there (a year or more ago) my blog entries came out as male, too. And when I tried to pick some femme-y feeling entries, they were "less male" but still male-veering.

Could it be that your novel is written for YA audience? Is there some "softening" (if "softness" is what makes writing feminine -- I'm not sure I like the sound of that) because of the audience you're writing for?