The different words that men and women use

I was talking to members of a marketing department (mostly female) recently who had discovered that one of their core products had poor uptake among men.  The product name seemed quite girly to me – and we were discussing whether the product’s communication was unconsciously influenced by the gender of the marketing team.

I remembered that conversation when I read about some new research just published on the words that men and women use to communicate on Facebook.   It reports on a comprehensive study analysing 19 million Facebook status updates – and it shows rather depressingly that men and women tend to display their sterotypes clearly when communicating, at least on Facebook.

Words, phrases, and topics most highly distinguishing females and males

Now, one might infer from the word cloud above that the research found that women talk about shopping and boyfriends all the time, while men mostly swear about football and gaming.  Despite what some of the media have been inferring, that’s not the case – as the paper itself states:

“Unlike most word clouds, which scale word size by their frequency, we scale word size according to the strength of the correlation of the word with the demographic or psychological measurement of interest, and we use color to represent frequency over all subjects; that is, larger words indicate stronger correlations, and darker colors indicate more frequently used words. This provides a clear picture of which words and phrases are most discriminating while not losing track of which ones are the most frequent.”

Nevertheless, it is interesting to observe the differences between the ways different genders communicate.  This kind of research should give marketing teams dominated by one gender pause for thought.

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