Differences Between Male and Female Academic Writing
10 Oct 2018
How Male and Female Academic Writing Approaches Differ
Have you ever noticed how greatly men and women writing styles differ? There was no clear answer to this question before the 20th century. It can be explained by the fact that if such differences do exist, they are not easy to notice at first glance.
There is a fewer number of studies on gender in academic writing compared to the ones on gender in speaking. Nevertheless, the linguists conducted many researches on how male and female writing styles differ depending on various situations and environment.
Types of writing varied in different studies. However, one curious approach was implemented, defining the gender of an author with an incredible accuracy. Moshe Koppell wrote the work Automatically Categorizing Written Texts by Author Gender, which is a kind of a sorting algorithm that helps to define academic writing gender of an author with the accuracy of about 80 percent.
Thus, if such an issue as gender in academic writing may be resolved by automatic sorting, a conclusion may be drawn that male and female writing differences are not some abstract and qualitative notions but rather concrete and quantitative elements. Therefore, the handiest tool in defining gender in academic writing is the frequency of usage of some particular language units.
Altogether there are 50 markers. They help to define the gender of an author. The most prominent female marker is the frequent use of pronouns (I, she, you, herself, yourself). Men's characteristic marker is the high usage of determiners such as a, the, that, these, quantifiers as any, some, two, four, five, and cardinal numbers.
Obviously, such an algorithm doesn’t give an absolute guarantee of an author’s gender determiner. Though when you try to compare and count the results of median frequencies – your algorithm seems to be right. For instance, if you notice that “the” is used less often than personal pronoun “she,” the text under investigation is unquestionably written by a lady. As the studies go further and explore more markers, it becomes easier to define the author’s gender with more precision.
Such differences can be explained by some theories described below. Let’s have a look at some of them.
- One of the theories suggests that female writing is considered to be more “involved” as it reflects a deeper interaction of the writer with readers/listeners. This interaction is mostly seen through the frequent usage of pronouns. While male writing has more “informational” character and is seen in an abundance of determiners used.
- In 1996, Punter and Burchell conducted research on academic writing gender differences among children. The GCSE English language exam in the UK primary school proved that girls did better in imaginative, reflective, and empathetic writing, while boys did better in argumentative and factual writing. Thus, even the choice of the topic plays a vital role in determining gender differences in writing.
- Considering the styles of writing, Kanaris in his study of 1999 stated that there are big differences between boys and girls at the age of 8-10 in the ways they construct meanings. The researcher found that the patterns of pronouns, adjectives, and verbs' usage showed children as individuals of different genders in the ways they construct agencies. Thus, it has been proved that even small linguistic choice, as well as the way the writing is performed, indicate that writing is not gender-neutral, but on the contrary, reflects male and female inner worlds, which are completely opposed.
- Joan Swann (1992) and Romatowski & Trepanier-Street’s (1987) ideas' on gender in academic writing in EL1 reveal that the differences between girls’ and boys’ writings lie in the differences of girls’ and boys’ perception and preferences in it. Girls usually show more positive attitude toward writing, whereas boys, on the contrary, are mostly negative about it. Boys’ preference is factual writing, while girls tend to like more imaginative writing. Girls write more confessionally and reflectively, they deal with people and use private forms, while boys prefer mere facts and actions expressed in public forms.
- Meinhof (1997), studying gender bias examples of academic writing embodied by three social groups (professional group, the group of academics, and students of university), proved that male and female students’ texts were very similar. Though, the group of academics showed that the narratives of female academics were profoundly different from those of male academics. On the whole, this group differed greatly from the group of students. The female writings showed the greater degree of self-reflection and evaluation, while the male writings were more egotistic.
- Three gender bias examples of academic writing were analyzed for such features common to all of the examples as syntax complexity, means citation integration, and ways of arguments' presentation. The results disclosed differences in the male’s and female’s writings considering these three aspects. Female’s works tended to complexity more than male’s. The ladies included more rephrased information integrating citations and had much better arguments organization. Thus, female’s big success and high proficiency level of academic writing can be explained by those characteristic features.
Despite certain facts and linguistic investigations, your writing skills don't depend on your gender. Both men and women can be gifted authors.