Editors using feminine language strategies tend to be more likely to get authors to revise their work.
Our goal as editors is to help authors improve their work, but we cannot do that if they are unwilling to consider and incorporate our edits. Many factors can influence whether authors will utilize our suggestions, including the tone and style of language we use. In particular, using traditionally feminine or masculine language strategies can increase or decrease the likelihood of authors utilizing proposed edits.
In his article “Feminine Language Strategies As Effective Persuasion Techniques for Online Technical Editors,” Myles Cryer (2012) of Auburn University seeks to answer two questions: “Does the use of feminine language strategies in editorial (i.e., Advisor) comments either positively or negatively affect the update rate of reviews?” and “How does the use of certain traditional masculine language strategies affect the rate of review updates?” (1). To answer these questions, he gathered data from Epinions.com. He studied the site members’ reviews, the edits of Epinions Advisors (who act as editors) on those reviews, and the outcome of whether the members responded to those edits by fixing their reviews. He then classified the edits as employing either masculine (commanding or directing to advice on the site) or feminine (hedging, praising, welcoming, or connecting) language strategies.
Regarding masculine language strategies, Cryer discovered that members chose to fix only 8% of reviews with command edits and 12% of reviews with direction edits. Moreover, members chose not to fix 20% of reviews with command edits and 35% of reviews with direction edits..
In contrast, while most feminine language strategies had no quantifiable influence on the member authors, editors had used hedging on 66% of revised reviews. Of the reviews authors chose not to revise, 33% of the edits contained hedging.
While some may advise avoiding feminine language in professional communication, Cryer’s research indicates that editors may want to do the exact opposite. We can use feminine language, hedging in particular, if we want to increase the chances of our authors acting on our edits. And the more inclined they are to adopt our edits, the smoother the editing process will go, and the better the end product will likely be.
To learn more about Myles Cryer’s research, methods of data collection, and categorizations for gendered language, read the full article:
Cryer, Myles. 2012. “Feminine Language Strategies as Effective Persuasion Techniques for Online Technical Editors.” In Proceedings of the 2012 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, pp. 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1109/IPCC.2012.6408626.
—R. Maren Skidmore, Editing Research
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