Many of my stories have two protagonists, one male, one female, and are told alternately from both viewpoints. I don't find it difficult to show the differing personalities through the different ways the characters think and behave, but what I haven't yet managed satisfactorily is a distinctly different voice.
I know (or it is my opinion) that differences between genders often aren't as pronounced as differences within genders (e.g. the difference in height between the tallest and the smallest woman is much greater than the difference between the average man and woman) and when I talk to men and women or read books by men and women I never consciously note any overt differences in their use of language.
And yet the experiences of women and men in our cultures aren't exactly the same, and we can observe certain differences in behavior that result from this as well as differences in male and female biology. I would therefore expect there to be difference, at least in tendency (think average body height), in the use of language as well.
And in fact, when I read a series of anonymous posts by the same poster on the internet, or exchange a series of emails or messages with someone whose gender I don't know – and we do not discuss anything that is (or appears to me to be) related to a certain gender –, I am quite convinced that I can often tell the gender of the other person from how they write. I haven't had much opportunity to verify my hunch, so I don't know how often I was wrong.
In most cases, I wasn't quite sure what gave me the impression that I was reading posts or messages written by a male or female, although sometimes I clearly thought that "a woman (or man) wouldn't say this".
If there are gender differences in writing, I would like to employ them in my writing. So I wonder:
Are there gender differences in writing? And if so, what are they?
My question is not about an analysis of published writings by professional authors. I would expect gender differences to either disappear at that level of standardization and conscious control, or be a programmatic effort as in the écriture féminine. Rather I think the unintended differences I am after will be most prominent in the everyday writings of untrained writers.