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Are there any stylistic markers (sentence structures, vocabulary choices, or anything else) which may help the reader suggest, even if only tentatively, the gender — male or female — of the author, particularly in the first person narratives when the narrator's and the author's genders may not be the same? If yes, what might those markers be?

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  • This question is extremely broad and opinion-based, which are both off-topic for this exchange –– we can't possibly list every 'tentative' gender norm and taboo, of every character, in every genre and culture.... As for obscuring the author's gender: a pseudonym using the first initial is common.
    – wetcircuit
    Jun 3, 2023 at 21:50

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I often feel I can tell whether I am reading a book written by a man or a woman. This hunch is not always accurate, but not always wrong, either.

Different studies have found contradicting results, and overall the writing of men and women seems to be more similar than different. Interindividual differences are much larger than gender specific differences. Nevertheless, differences in language use relating to gender have often been found, so:

Yes, there seem to be stylistic markers that suggest the gender of a writer.

For example, research has found that women use more

  • pronouns
  • emotion terms
  • kinsip terms
  • exclamation points

while men use more

  • noun specifiers
  • numbers
  • technology words

In general, female writing tends to be more "involved" while male writing tends to be more "informational" and syntactically complex. Or in other words, men write in a more "non fiction" style, while women write in a more "fiction" style.

In addition, women seem to be more likely to acknowledge opposing points of view.

There is much more, but I'm not doing your research for you. Use Google Scholar and search for "gender differences in writing styles", "linguistic markers of gender", and similar search terms. If you find relevant texts, use the terms the authors use to refine or vary your search. Also employ the "cited by" and "find similar texts" links below each listing.

You may need to use Google Scholar from within a research network to access the full texts for free, many are behind a paywall. There will be a link to the full text behind the result in Google Scholar if you have access to it; the link in the listing itself usually only leads to a catalog entry on the website of the publisher or in some scientific database that usually doesn't provide more than the abstract. I do my research at the computers (or with my laptop over WLAN) in a university library.

For an introduction (though mostly in relation to spoken language), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_and_gender

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  • This hunch is not always accurate, but not always wrong, either – is your accuracy above the median, at least? Anecdotally, I usually go with my gut, but my gut is good at making only one kind of thing. Jun 5, 2023 at 13:57
  • @MindwinRememberMonica That was just an introduction to my answer. Don't get hung up on it.
    – user55858
    Jun 5, 2023 at 14:25
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No, there are not. Which is not an interesting answer. The interesting part is the reason why there aren’t.

Psychometrics is the study of characterizing the human mind. It's not perfect and the science has a long way to go but certain things seem clear. Statistically speaking, there are relative differences between the minds of males and females — both structurally and in terms of interests and traits.

But, they only become apparent when we look at a large sample of subjects. They disappear when individuals are assessed — except on the outliers. Expressed in other words, the psychometric parameters are not effective predictors of the sex of an individual. This means that, on the whole, considering individuals, human beings mostly think and feel about things in unique and individualistic ways. Since our words reflect our thoughts, the sex of a person is not likely to be reflected in our writing. Or, to put it another way, a man and a woman are as likely or as not to feel strongly about football or brownies as any two men or two woman feel about the same subject.

Therefore, they’ll express themselves in accordance to their individual natures, rather than by approximate male or female ideal nature.

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To add to @wetcircuit this is especially true for women writing in genre's and for audiences that are dominated by male fans, especially young boys. This is more marketing reasons as there is an idea that boys are less likely to read books written by women, even if they protagonists are male. The author of Animorphs (K.A. Applegate) and Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) would not be the most read author by boys in the 90s if they had "Kathrine" and "Joan" as part of their pen names.

That said, it's not exclusively used by women. The third most successful writer in the 90s for elementary-middle school boys was R.L Steine... a man. However, when his Goosebumps series was parodied in the Arthur television show, the author of the fictitious books was a woman with the pen name E. A. Dupoe... which was not only a nod to this pen name style being used to conceal an author's gender, but also shout out to the horror master, Edgar Allan Poe.

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