I recently received the results of a poll asking that very question. It was produced by a company called Grammarly, a leading automated proofreader.
The results are sure to set off some interesting (read: heated & intense) discussions among writers of both genders.
I won’t keep you in suspense. The result of the poll of some 3,000 men and women world-wide is that women are better writers than men by a margin of 59% to 41%.
Ahem. I am sure there are plenty of male colleagues who beg to differ. And I am sure there are plenty of female scribblers who are saying: “See, I told you so!”
So just how did Grammarly arrive at this staggering conclusion?
Women, the poll said, tend to be more descriptive in their writing, and spend more time developing a greater variety of characters than men.
Perhaps as a result, women are generally regarded to be superior writers, the survey concluded.
Note the qualifiers in that sentence: “perhaps” and “generally.”
On the other hand, male writers get to the point faster, and both sexes are more likely than not to write about people like themselves, the poll added.
OK, now let’s do a little parsing here.
First, let’s not forget that the poll was highly subjective and I have no idea if the 3,000 men and women polled were split equally between the sexes.
Having said that there were some interesting results.
For example, one question asked which of the sexes are likely to spend more time developing characters and which will get to the point faster.
The answer? 83 percent of the respondents said that women were likely to spend more time developing characters and just 17 per cent said they would get to the point faster.
As for men, 44 percent of respondents said that men would spend significant time developing character and 56 per cent said men would get to the point of the story faster.
Before going on, I should explain just what Grammarly is. According to the company, the software program uses elite natural language processing technology to check writing for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It delivers a passive learning experience that identifies writing patterns and sends users personal recommendations to help understand their most common mistakes and opportunities to develop their writing skills.
Grammarly is also the creator of GrammoWriMo, a collaborative writing project to celebrate National Novel Writing Month (November). Last year the project brought together more than 300 writers from 27 countries and 44 U.S. states to create a group novel, which was then sold as an e-book on Amazon and benefitted the Make-A-Wish Foundation
Now, back to the poll. Another question asked if men are more likely to write about people (using pronouns such as “she,” “me,” “hers,” or “we”) or things (using determiners such as “the,” “a,” “some,” or “more”).
Fifty-six percent said men were more likely to write about people and 44 percent they were more likely to write about things.
On the other hand, 68 percent said women were more likely to write about people and just 32 percent said they were more likely to write about things.
I am not sure what that means. I have never seen a successful novel yet that focuses entirely on “people” or entirely on “things.” I would assume that any good story would give sufficient attention to both.
The results of one question seemed to run counter to what I would regard as crisp and clear writing. That had to do with sentence length.
The question asked which, men or women, were more likely to write long, descriptive sentences, or simple, straightforward sentences.
The answer: 34 percent of men wrote long sentences and 66 percent wrote short sentences. For women the percentages were quite different. The poll revealed that 76 percent of women wrote long, descriptive sentences while just 24 percent wrote short, snappy sentences.
Once again, I am not sure why those results indicate that women are superior writers. I prefer, like Ernest Hemingway, to write shorter, crisper sentences–though if William Faulkner were queried I am sure he would say just the opposite.
Is the Grammarly poll conclusive? Hardly. But I am sure it will make for some interesting conversation at book fairs, writing conferences and in college literature classes.
Conclusive or not, I give Grammarly props for tackling a potentially fractious topic.Check out this link to Grammarly: http://www.grammarly.com/grammarcheck