More Sybil, Less Basil

Last time, we talked about how some hotel brands were using language which unwittingly slipped between a masculine and feminine voice.

Fortunately, there’s some good science you can use to estimate how masculine or feminine your copy is.

James Pennebaker, psychology professor at UT Austin, has found that a writer’s gender is often betrayed by their use of pronouns.

Men tend to focus on tangibles – which is reflected by more impersonal pronouns (thems and its). Women tend to focus on things as they relate to people. That means a lot more I, you, we, me, he, and she.

Armed with this knowledge, you can make judgements of the gendering of a passage of text even when pronouns are absent. Just look at how the source discusses its subject matter.

A focus on interpersonal interaction suggests feminine. A focus on concepts and the specifics of the environment suggests masculine.

Let’s apply the principle to copy from the Hilton and Marriott groups.

First up, the overview for the Hilton Lake Las Vegas resort.

Hilton Copy

A broadly neutral tone, with a slightly feminine edge. Features are described in terms of how we can enjoy them, rather than why they should impress us.

Next, Marriott’s overview for the Ritz in London.

Marriott Copy

The tone here is much more masculine – tangibles are the focus. It’s all about what the hotel has, as a fact, and not about how the guest can use them.

The sense of welcoming reassurance that hotels rely on is absent – and guests might even avoid using facilities because they seem so rarefied.

Most brand language projects go astray because writers assume that brand language is merely tone of voice. It isn’t. A successful verbal identity is only created when you can understand and pay attention to the subtleties of the brand’s voice, and that includes gender, message structure and the brand narrative.

If you’d like to find out more about how to tune the gender of your copy, please email Mr. Chris West.