Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Gender Guesser

I came across a tweet from a former supervisor of mine, Jessica Sinsheimer, who is a literary agent.






I was curious, so I pasted in the beginning of my novel into the Gender Guesser. Now, supposedly, you paste in a writing sample and based on whether the writing is "formal" or "informal," it is supposed to guess the gender of the author---or is it meant to guess the gender of the POV the author is writing in? What do you think?

I'm a female and for this novel, I am mostly writing in a male POV--my protagonist is a male--but the other POV characters are female.

I pasted in the first 313 words of my book. It's entirely from Miles's POV.

This was the bit I copied & pasted in:


             Miles had expected the news for weeks, if he was honest. Deep in his bones, he knew the inevitable would happen. When Fraser informed him that Lamia the kitchen maid had finally run away, it was no job at all to keep his face impassive.
 "Last night," Fraser said in his impenetrable Scots burr. "I've sent for the hounds and inquired all the kitchen slaves—"
            "Fraser," Miles interrupted in the most cut-glass accent he could muster. He did not bother glancing up from the ledger, which told him that the cane was yielding well. Each neat column pointed to the profit from the sugar being higher than last year's. "Cease poking about in the kitchens. You wouldn't want to upset my digestion."
            "No, of course not, Mr. Keegan."
Miles swallowed the acrid taste in his mouth as he checked the page, seeing that each component of the crop would make him even wealthier. Did other men taste acid when they reached a certain level of material success, too?  
"Now, Lamia—she's run, has she? I'm not surprised. She was going to be sold and manumitted, like her boy was. She knew that."
"Ought I inform Mr. Taylor that she's—?"
"Perhaps. But I should also like to ascertain that she's not run to Taylor's. Her son is there, of course. She knew she'd be free soon. Why not run early?"
            "But not legally," Fraser said. Miles threw a glance Fraser's way. "If she's run to Taylor, then will you still let him purchase her?" Miles did not reply. He undid the top button near his collar. The plantation office was stuffy from the heat. There was a permanent claustrophobic staleness created by cabinets, shelves, and three large desks with innumerable books and papers, in a room meant for a more genteel appearance. 


This was my result:

Genre: Formal
  Female = 514
  Male   = 250
  Difference = -264; 32.72%
  Verdict: FEMALE

Also, it said my emphasis was weak and therefore classified my writing as "European." Yup, that's me. European-sized clothes, European writing, wanting to drive on the left like a European...

Soo....what do you guys think? Is it possible to distinguish a female voice from male voice? Have you used something like the Gender Guesser for a laugh? It reminds me of the Mary Sue Litmus Test. Because, to be real, writing is always up for interpretation.

13 comments:

  1. Interesting! I would have thought male, but I guess it's because you prefaced with that. I am so gonna try this....How does one write more male-like? Agh.

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  2. PS Did it - got a 'weak male' which is what I think I'm going for - thanks for sharing! :-D

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    1. "Weak male" lol I think I'm doing an all right job at writing from a male POV, despite what gender guesser thinks. Did you get weak male in the informal box or the formal box? The informal box gave me "weak female."

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  3. You pegged a male character in this reader's opinion. I'd say %1,000 male! Those online tools can be touchy. I copy-pasted the same two paragraphs into that "Which Writer do You Write Like?" app and came up with a different writer four different times!

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    1. Thank you! And yeah, I did that "Which Writer Do You Write Like?" thing too. For blog posts, I wrote like H.P. Lovecraft. For the book, I wrote like Edgar Allan Poe lol. I'd have to say that online tests and tools are just for algorithms and fun.

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  4. You used to work under Jessica Sinsheimet! I hear such great things about her from people who've submitted their work to her.

    Anyway, your 300 words sounds like a guy to me. I'm thinking it could be the time period you're writing in. It looks like it's assuming women are more formal in nature than men.

    I put in two excerpts, one from my guy's POV and one from my girl's. The guy came up 61% male! Whoo hoo! Lol! The girl came up 53% male with weak emphasis. I've tried that thing Randi talked about as well a couple of times and got some guy that writes thrillers (and apparently good thrillers!) both times. So I'm guessing I must write a little like like a dude. Lol!

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    1. I was one of her interns. It was definitely my favorite of the four internships I had in publishing.

      It could be the period-speak. I mean, I am sort of trying to emulate Jane Austen in places. I'm not clear on what's meant by "weak emphasis." But it gave me a good laugh with "weak emphasis: European."

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  5. That was interesting, thx. for the link. I posted two excerpts from CHERRY, both were exclusively male dialogue/narrative. Both excerpts came up relatively strong "male", seventy-odd percent. Which is good, right?

    I mean, 'cause I'm a delicate flower and everything, and I am, of course, HOPING that when I write from a male POV, it sounds authentic, blah blah.

    I shall pretend that is the definitive proof I've been looking for, call it a day, grab myself a brew and stogie and scratch my balls for a little while.

    Thinking about absolutely nothin', of course.

    :-)

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    1. Go ahead and pretend! In my case, I'm going to say that a) I'm a girl so it picked up on that, which is good, and b) even if I'm writing a guy, it's third person and C) he's a Georgian era man, so...he's not American...

      Something like that :-) Thanks for your comment!

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  6. I tried this for one of my short stories and it came back with "weak Male".

    I tried the link to "Gender Genie" and when you get results back, it shows which words are feminine and which ones are masculine. Interesting!

    Thanks for sharing. It was fun!

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    1. I'll have to give Gender Genie a try then--just out of curiosity.

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  7. I read the first para and presumed female:
    " Miles had expected the news for weeks, if he was honest. Deep in his bones, he knew the inevitable would happen. When Fraser informed him that Lamia the kitchen maid had finally run away, it was no job at all to keep his face impassive."

    Sentence tag of "if he was honest" made me think you're female, and words like 'if, when, personal pronouns"

    I ran my own email messages ( mainly work related IT stuff and formal) through the Gender Guesser and got:

    Total words: 17193

    Genre: Informal
    Female = 20541
    Male = 36716
    Difference = 16175; 64.12%

    Genre: Formal
    Female = 28550
    Male = 16134
    Difference = -12416; 36.1%
    Verdict: FEMALE
    Verdict: MALE

    The Bookblog.net Gender Genie gave us useful results because they detailed words that lent towards male or female. Sadly two weeks ago the whole website was shut down without any explanation. Running web sites is cheap, so perhaps someone did not want them there, or they forgot to renew their domain.

    Regards, J

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    Replies
    1. I'm not really sure how using an "if" makes an entire paragraph skew female, but it's period piece, so the language is used differently to a contemporary piece. Or a blog post lol

      It's not like it's a definitive last word on gender!

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Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts. Check back soon. I reply to all comments. Happy reading!