Guessing the person's sex on the basis of his/her writing

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Setwale_Charm, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. OK, I am opening a new thread and the mods should feel free to transfer our "wanderings away from the point" in the Nickname thread into this one.
    Is is at all possible to detect whether the author of any writing is a male or a female unless, of course, they give specific allusions to this fact? Is it possible to pretend to be of the opposite sex?

    I have never set such a goal for myself as to conceal my true personality and impersonate somebody else. So I guess my style can be very "betraying". Has anybody attempted doing such a thing?
    Nevertheless, years ago, when I used to have online penpals, a girl from Indonesia with whom I had been communicating for a while, suddenly asked me whether I was a male or a female claiming my style was more like a man`s!! The Western emancipation is to blame here, I guess:).
  2. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I've never tried to conceal my true identity... Oh no, once I pretended to be a male.:) It was in a chat, and I dare say no one guessed that in fact I was a female.:) But I remember that I wrote all my replies very carefully...
    As for detecting the writer's gender, it seems that it depends on the writer him/herself. Some women are able to write like men (I have several online friends whom I considered to be males. They turned out to be females!), some are not. But it's all a matter of personal style, I think.
  3. mirx Banned

    Well, if it serves for your goal, I´ve been told to have woman hands, woman fingers, woman hand-writing and woman,,, Ohh my God I am a woman.:eek:

    I suppose they (the women) say that I write like a woman because unlike most males my handwriting is somehow legible.
  4. Venezuelan_sweetie

    Venezuelan_sweetie Senior Member

    La Jerusalén de los Suramericanos.
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    Confession: back on my days as a newbie (not too long ago, indeed) I thought you were a guy, Setwale Charm. :eek:

    Several times, I had to click on your profile, re-read "female" and "daughter", and control myself before sending you a PM asking "are you a he, or a she?"

    But still, the next time I would read a post by you, I needed a full stop and remind myself: "It's a woman, it's a woman, it's a woman, it's a..."

    Does it work as an answer? :eek:
  5. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I have mistaken females for males online quite a few times. The mistake is usually in this direction. I doubt that it was anything they wrote. I probably just have a bias to assume that people of unknown gender have the same gender as I.

    P.S. Most people give clues to their gender in their usernames, though (and then there is the user profile... ;)).
  6. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    Interestingly, in some cases, yes. I believe that I guess the majority of foreros correctly. However, there are some with a neutral or mixed style that is difficult or impossible to identify. People are so different, thus there is no unambigious answer to the title question.

    Yes, it is, at least in my experience. If people try to pretend to be of the opposite sex they have to be more careful and they need to have a good feeling for words and style.

    I am certain we talk about writing style (as in words typed online) and not about graphological identification of hand-writing, which is much easier to do.

  7. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    I have mistaken a number of times the sex of the forero. Most times the nick or the avatar have induced me to think a woman was a man.

    For some reason, man with "girlie" avatars or nicks are easily detected.

    In this forum, the surest is to think the "default" sex is female.
  8. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    Me too. :eek:
    The same for me. Most of the times I misinterpreted the clues due to cultural differences, ie. a nickname that ends with an a (should be a woman) but then I find out because of something they write. By this I mean the content of the post, the ideas, or the use of gender in speech - but not the style: I have a hard time believing that there's a female style of writing and a male one.
  9. Guessing the person's sex is easy.
    Guessing the persons' sex may be more difficult.

    Gender is usually easier to guess than number.

    Sincerely yours,
  10. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    Yes, that happened to me, too. Nicknames can be quite misleading. And once a picture is formed, it gets more and more difficult to reverse it.

  11. Venezuelan_sweetie

    Venezuelan_sweetie Senior Member

    La Jerusalén de los Suramericanos.
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    I concur! It happens to me with one specific forer@. His/her avatar and profile picture are always changing, but the one s/he had the first time I read one of his/her posts looked "female" to me.

    His/her the username sounds like a "girlish" boy, according to my cultural background, but that's not necessarily true in another context. The writing style s/he uses is often confusing (sounds like a boy, most of the times), and the ideas s/he states sound like a woman's thoughts! :confused:

    Maybe I should just PM him/her and beg him/her to show some mercy and take me out of this misery... :( :p

  12. You would have noticed that I first wrote about gender but then changed it to sex for desambiguation. We have people of different nationalities and mothertongues and I wanted to avoid any misunderstanding which might have arisen due to certain connotations in some languages.
  13. TRG Senior Member

    english USA
    This is possibly the funniest question I have ever read on the forum. Hellooooo! I'm sorry, I know you didn't mean the question the way it struck me, but when you just look at the question by itself, it's pretty funny. Obviously people have been passing themselves off as of the other sex both in writing in person for a very long time. As far as the forum, I really don't think about the person, I just read what they write and react to that. I don't treat one differently than the other. Real life is another matter!
  14. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Usually yes, with a relatively few exceptions. However, I'd probably better not go into the details of the relevant criteria. :D

    Generally yes, but some people can't do it at all, while only a small minority of people could successfully maintain such a deception for a longer period of time. It's somewhat like pretending to be a native speaker of a language in writing; even if you can maintain a convincing general tone, sooner or later you're going to write something that's a dead giveaway. As for me, I don't think I would be able to produce a single paragraph that could pass as having been written by a woman. :D

  15. Now, that`s interesting!:) Will you guys give me good references should I want to apply for a CIA or SIS job?:D You can always confirm that the gender deception bit comes quite naturally to me:D.
    However, I wonder where exactly that stems from. I mean, I know a few women who are "manly" in their behaviour, who talk and act like men and always wear trousers, in all senses:). However, I am definitely not of them. What`s more, in real life I have no inclinations that could possibly lead to man-like behaviour: I am neither lesbian, nor particularly feministic, nor a member of any specific "uni-sex" movement and I have got plenty of skirts.:D
    You will possibly be disappointed upon seeing me in real life.
  16. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    That's interesting! Why do you say so?
  17. drei_lengua

    drei_lengua Senior Member

    Hola/Guten Abend/Cześć/Hello/Howdy/Bonjour/Bonjourno (sp?)/Good day

    Whether one can ascertain another person's gender by his ... her ... writing depends on the language being written. The adjectives in Spanish quickly give away the gender of the person. The past tense and conditional verb conjugations in Polish give away the gender of the person.

    So with this being said, would someone alter the adjectives when writing in Spanish or alter the past tense and conditional verb conjugations when writing in Polish?

    Ich freue mich auf Deine Gedanken. (I look forward to your thoughts.)

  18. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    That's easy: considering how much time it must take to rack up so many posts in so little time, I would think most forer@s hardly get any.
  19. mplsray Senior Member

    I remember reading about a study in which a computer analysis was highly effective in identifying the gender of the writer. A bit of googling turned up an abstract here:

    That was not, however, the research I had in mind, which, if I remember correctly, was originally intended to determine if a text was written by a particular author and was said to be quite effective in doing so.
  20. CrazyArcher

    CrazyArcher Senior Member

    Well, from my experience, women tend to have a more rounded handwriting style, while men tend to extend vertical lines (in letters like 'y' or 'h'), and in general it's not hard to form an impression, but of course it can be often misleading. The interresting thing for me here is that it's easier to notice the 'femininity' than 'masculinity' from the writing.
  21. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    This discussion is not about graphology of hand-writing, but about deducing the gender from the text style.

  22. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    I'm not sure why exactly I got this first impression about you, I'm sure it's something with your nickname, but I can't point out what exactly in it. :confused:
    The thing is, once I've inferred that someone was a he or a she (which I do unconsciously), I will stick to this first impression if there's no clue against that image. Probably at one point you wrote something that made me check your profile, or I eventually noticed the "daughter of..." (was it there from the start?)
    I'm intrigued by this because, as I said, I'm not convinced (until someone proves me wrong :)) that there's a female style of writing and a male one. But doesn't the sentence you quote simply mean that someone can figure out the gender based on grammatical hints? Which doesn't look very difficult to me... Or am I misunderstanding? (I wasn't able to find the reference on your link :eek:)
  23. CrazyArcher

    CrazyArcher Senior Member

    Oh, right... Sorry... I think I should stop smoking that stuff (j/k) :eek:
  24. Venezuelan_sweetie

    Venezuelan_sweetie Senior Member

    La Jerusalén de los Suramericanos.
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    Well, I'm not sure. I think it was a mix of several things.
    Firstly, the colors in your avatar are not particularly feminine. I think they're not particularly masculine, either, but according to what I've seen in cyber-life so far, when women choose an ID picture or design, they lean towards "girlie" colors... :rolleyes:

    Secondly, your username didn't reveal your sex (gender?) either, which many European males I know are used to do. Maybe my brain added a crazy link in there and filled in the blanks... :(

    Thirdly (and back in topic), seems to me that your writing style is very... ehm... how to say... vigorous and direct. Some posts of yours that I read when I was a newbie, sounded a bit like a steriotipical man's way to say things, and did not reveal whether you were saying those things from a male or female perspective (which I liked, by the way).

    I hope that answers your questions, but if it's too vague an answer to you, PMs are always welcome! :)
    Ah, don't worry, darling: my legs had better days, too... :D
  25. Oh my goodness!! So I am a man!!! A disgracefully incomplete underequipped male!!!:eek:
  26. Venezuelan_sweetie

    Venezuelan_sweetie Senior Member

    La Jerusalén de los Suramericanos.
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    Didn't you say that "the Western emancipation" was to blame? ;)

    Now seriously, it's interesting that handwriting style has been mentioned here and there, throughout this thread... Have any of you heard of gender guessing through graphology? I know that's not quite what we're discussing in here, but the Anima vs. Animus individual conceptions that graphology uses, are not linked only to handwriting, but also to writing styles...

    Sorry I don't run an on-line search before throwing this into the melting pot (some links could come in handy), but I don't have unlimited on-line access from this PC. Can somebody give a hand on that? :(
  27. Crescent

    Crescent Senior Member

    Russian, (Ukraine)
    What an interesting thread, I must admit! :)

    Although I have to say, I was slightly confused when reading some of the posts, as to why they were talking about handwriting - we can't really see it here on the forums, online, anyway..:p

    But from my point of view, I think it is usually (and I'd say it works for about 85% of the time) very possible to distinguish the sex of a forero according to their writing style on the forums. And I think I've not made many mistakes in my guessings of a forero's sex - not to say that I am good at it, it's just that I believe that there are general characteristics which classify the catergories of ''feminism'' and ''masculinity'' in style of writing.

    For example: it seems to me (and please oh please, do forgive me for generalisations! I realise that what I am saying is not always 100% the case, but these are just some of my observations :) ) that females usually have a less ''formal'' style of writing. It's more relaxed, and sounds more like the way they talk in real life to the friends and family.
    Once again, females, it seems to me, also tend to quite like to lean away from the original topic of the thread (most certainly including myself!! :p) and make general (nicea and intersting) comments either about the subject, or about the other forerosparticipating in the thread (usually complimenting or thanking the other members of th community). :D
    I have to say that some males have a tendency to do that too - like some very nice people would often post trivial comments such as: There is absolutely no need to apologise. or Everyone makes mistakes, don't worry about it! in an answer to a comment usually made by the starter of the thread, such as: Oh, dear! I really must practise my X(insert language) more often! *blushes*. Or something along those lines. ;)

    Then, again, nicknames and online names play a very important part in this! I have to say, that once (only once! :D) I was confused for a male Crescent.(even though I'm very much a female one, and I always thought that the feminine side of my nature provided sufficient proof for that! *sniffles* ) But I think the majority of you could never really confuse me with a male... (at least I think so)!

    And the last thing, which I believe really stands out - is the amount of smilies that our foreros use! Again, a generalisation, but I've noticed that in general women use a lot more than males! And whilst the girlie ones tend to be *smiles* and *blushes*, the males often feel the need to wink and grin at everyone! :p
    I have to say, that I myself very often use up all of my ''8 smilies limit'' in one post! Like, now, for example...I have no more smilies to use. *sad face*.. *giggles*..!
  28. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    I recognise female and male handwriting of adult students with a reasonable, satisfying rate. However, I do not believe in deducing all kinds of personality traits by graphology, because I suppose that very many environmental and educational effects take place that have very significant influence on hand-writing without altering the fundamental personality. Actually, there are personality factors that influence the hand-writing, but how consistently they do so? For example, meticulousness, insecurity or strong self-confidence, sometimes also arrogance and flippancy can be quite clearly seen in hand-writing.

    Here is a link that claims that "even non-experts are able to correctly identify the gender of a writer about 70% of the time [by looking at the hand-writing]".

  29. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    I agree, this is true for many women foreros here.

    I disagree. Many male foreros deviate quite a lot, too.

    I agree. This is much more commonly done by women than men in this forum.

    Again, I agree. This is obviously the case.

  30. Venezuelan_sweetie

    Venezuelan_sweetie Senior Member

    La Jerusalén de los Suramericanos.
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    Seems like we've hit in a potentially interesting (yet off-topic) discussion. I'd love to keep on with it, but if we did, we would perhaps be endangering this thread's further existance. (As I always say, new threads and PMs would be -enthusiastically- appreciated! ;) )

    My question was rather about a possible connection between pshychological gender (sex?) and writing style. I remember very little from graphology, but some of the outlines regarding masculine women and feminine men could perhaps also be linked to writing style, and not just to handwriting.

    Any ideas, links, studies, anything at all?
  31. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Wow, what an interesting conversation!:)

    Well, I don't know, who could say which difference are between boys and girls when writing? ;)

    I think no general ideas can be said about this kind of things, can't they, Sweetie, dear? :)

    When I was 18 and I was living in East Salonica, my boyfriend ;) and me talked for hours about this very same subject. A friend of us told that she was involved with a pen pal (I mean, Internet pen pal :p ) who pretended to be men. When she met them, they happened to be women! :eek:

    Well, you know, that is what I think. Do you agree, boys?

    I am not very sure what the real topic is.:mad:

    Either we are trying to decribe the general Western-style sex-oriented style of writing in Internet forums or this is a covert try to discover the sex of the foreros.

    Either way, it is nosense. The real problem is the mysoginia and sexism inserted in the current globalized men. All in all, is a poor and dumb try to develop a pathetic machist ego discourse in an specially inappropiate forum.

    Obviously (?) kidding.
  32. Venezuelan_sweetie

    Venezuelan_sweetie Senior Member

    La Jerusalén de los Suramericanos.
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    I mean, all we've been saying here is like "I think XXX writes like a man", "yeah, and what do I write like?", "I don't know, but I believe I write like...", which I doubt is what SC wanted from the start.

    I think (notice: think, believe, suppose, infer...) that she wants to know what makes us think someone is a guy or a chick, according to writing styles, and so far, not too many of us have exposed that.

    Is that somewhat clearer?
  33. John-Paul Senior Member

    Voorhees, NJ USA
    The Netherlands
    All right, let me be the Mr. or Mrs. Smartypants: A guess is just a guess and that's usually based on a feeling or some other form of irrationalism like intuition. The question should be: is it possible to scientifically determine someone's sex based on his/her choice of words, grammatic structure and overall care? I think you can if you include subject matter. Women have oftentimes different interests than men, but I have to be careful here, I do not want to generalize too much. Besides, what if I feel very comfortable with my feminine side, would that make a woman, on paper?;)
  34. aleCcowaN Senior Member

    Castellano - Argentina
    I usually don't think about the gender of the forero until some kind of discussion arises. As having a point of view implies having a point where the person is standing on, meaning one's background, and background in a wider sense includes gender, I like to know that gender. In those circumstances, I can deduct the gender of the person from what he/she writes about five each six times. There were maybe two or three cases I was pretty sure they were females and they "turned out" to be males.

    Usually feminine brains focus in a particular point, and explore all the details of that point disregarding (just a bit or quite a lot) its relatioships with the whole context. Feminine brains have great abilities to reasoning from general to particular, but quite often they choose a wrong or incomplete or biased set for the "general". They are often short-sighted to review their point of departure.

    Usually masculine brains see the whole context easily and pick better sets. We are more analytical and strategical than women (in average). But we often fail in our synthesis. We are often short-sighted to review our point of arrival.

    These mind styles infects emotional styles. As men see "the whole" we tend a bit to feel rejected as a person when is rejected one of our arguments. An example of this is the men seeming to be in a bad mood when our partner rejects our romantic advances. Misinterpreting this fuels the myth all men are "like children". As women see "the part" they tend to feel undervalued when their chain of reasoning is rejected. But women often take well a change in the departure set, and reason to come to a different conclusion. This fuels the myth that "woman don't know what they want".

    Fortunately, as societies become more balanced in gender roles, education and social responsabilites, and growing up make us more conscious of this gender biased styles, we manage to undestand more easily the point of view of others, but still we can notice the gender behind the mind. But it is equally true that masculine or feminine minds don't come necessarly with the rest of the gender's equipment.
  35. mplsray Senior Member

    The sentence I quote was of a study which based the gender determination on personal and impersonal pronouns, but in English what could that mean but that men and women have different styles of writing? It's not as if English has a first-person personal pronoun which is based upon the sex of the writer (as it conceivably could).
  36. mytwolangs Senior Member

    English United States
    If it is in a chat and you get a PM saying A/S/L, rest assured it is some guy.
    To combat this - for the S, say "man", even if you are a woman.
    He will quickly go away.
  37. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Sorry, but I am one of those who mistook you for a man too :eek:. Especially your avatar, that flag for some reason reminds me of Scotland and when I think of Scotland I think about men with skirts :p

    Won't you be my lost twin by any chance?:rolleyes: Because I have been told exactly the same thing. For some reason, I am mistaken 95% of the times for a woman, in any forum and also via MSN and Skype. But I don't look like a girl in real life nor I have girly voice.

    I agree with you. Even though it is a generalization, what you say is true in many things.

    I have observed that women tend to be more cheerful than men and use more emoticons, and I write as one of those :D

    English is a language that helps us not to know the gender of someone because English has no gender in most cases.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  38. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    I have great difficulty recognizing the gender of a forero. I think in some cases I could try to guess one's gender judging by avatar or manner of writing, but appearances can be deceptive, as the saying goes. If it isn't readily apparent because of nickname, I usually have to enter the profile and look for gender info. Too bad for me if a forero didn't provide any, leaving the blank space. Then I have to either take a wild guess, thoroughly read through forero posts or simply use "he or she" construction so as not to hurt anyone feelings. By the way, is there anything that gives my gender away? I guess most of you would say that I'm bound to be a she, but the facts are otherwise :D
  39. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Suzumiya: you'll always be female to me ~ it's the combination of the very girly avatar with the very feminine name (Sue + Mia):)

    Dreamlike: I never for one moment thought you were female:)
  40. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    So I guess you're one of the few people who have no difficulty recognizing my gender, as most people who send me PM mistake me for female (which might have something to do with my nickname). :D
  41. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    You are the first person who says that :D But actually I've been used to it since years, so it doesn't bother me at all to be thought a girl on internet ;).

    As for Suzumiya, it's a surname with no gender, I think what makes you think it's female is for the final -a. :D. The surname literally means something like ''refreshing/ nice and cool + shinto shrine/palace''. I didn't pick it for its meaning but because of the crazy character that uses it.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  42. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Neither did I. In other languages, Slavic for example, the person can more easily give out their sex, even if they were pretending to be somebody else, because the gender can be inferred from grammatical forms and it is easier to make mistakes. In fact I suspect one female character or somebody with a woman's screen name to be a man, but this is out of the scope of this discussion probably, and who cares in fact. I might be wrong.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  43. mplsray Senior Member

    I myself would not have a clue how to determine the gender of a writer based upon his or her "use of personal and impersonal pronouns," which is how the gender was determined in the study in question.

    By the way, the method used was the "SCAN technique." I've just discovered the following about that, from the Wikipedia article "Statement analysis":

    I'm not mentioning that to criticize the author of the article to which I referred earlier--she may well have found the results she reports--but I respect those sceptical sources and think their conclusion on the subject of content analysis in general should be mentioned
  44. Destruida Senior Member

    English (England)
    I think that, in general discussions and forums, a poster's gender is fairly obvious and that it requires some talent, as well as sustained concentration (or an unbalanced personality) to mislead for very long, but in more academic, professionmal or specialised discussions, it can be almost impossible to know the sex of the writer.
    In any culture, there are phrases, words and manners of speech that mark one as being of one or the other sex, although there are some people who don't acquire many of those.
  45. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    There are several forer@ for whom I had to check the Profile to determine the gender, and several others where I have deliberately not checked or asked.

    It is an interesting puzzle to write answers which do not give away my assumptions (or deliberate non-assumptions) about the gender in each case. I enjoy preserving my ignorance in those cases.
  46. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    I think such puzzling texts may be found in some earlier works about either A.I. or cryptography. Maybe in those by, say, Douglas Hofstadter. But I would have to check this to make sure...
  47. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    What you wrote may only be true in reference to certain languages: in some languages it is almost impossible to hide somebody's sex because of different verb forms. Slavic languages could serve as an example. There are different verb forms when a woman is speaking and different forms for a male speaker.
  48. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    The book I was referring to yesterday is indeed by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett: It's full title is "The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul" (Bantam, 1985).

    Chapter 5 ("The Turing test: A Coffeehouse Conversation") is basically a conversation between three people with the names of Chris, Pat and Sandy. And it is written in such a way that one may never guess which gender each of these three people actually is! (... which directly relates to what the famous Turing test is all about)

    The French translation is even more interesting since it cleverly conceals any use of pronouns, etc, that would disclose any such information (which is much easier to achieve in English, of course).

    Even 27 years after it was first published, it is still an interesting read: It reaches out for philosophical areas and issues that haven't aged much in the meantime.
  49. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    This thread is quite interesting, I think, because it makes me realize that without consciously giving it any thought at all, I actually do build some inner image of the foreros and foreras writing here. And this image always has gender, age, sometimes even hair colour etc.
    What Setwale_Charm is concerned, I never doubtet that she was a woman. I cannot put my finger on anything in her style of writing that explicitly says "female". It was simply intuition.
    But basically I think one can often tell from the style if it is a man or a woman writing. The most significant signals are of course this wide range of adjectives that women use and men hardly ever use - or at least not use the way a woman would. But there are also a lot of other signals that are so subtile that one does not notice them consciously.

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