Monday, April 9, 2012


Have you ever read a story where something about the dialogue seemed off – sometimes enough to pull you out of the story? It could be a problem with the speech of the characters. Men and women communicate differently – verbally and nonverbally. Using appropriate dialogue brings realism and color to the characters – particularly when accompanied by appropriate nonverbal cues. Extensive research has been conducted on verbal and nonverbal communications. Rather than offer up an information dump, I’ll feature verbal communications this month and nonverbal communications in May.

The speech of females and males do not have the same subject matter or the same manner of delivery. The differences have an impact on people’s behavior, particularly with first encounters. In the past, women used language to communicate feelings and establish bonds, while men used language primarily to transmit information. Women’s speech was generally more polite and formal, while men were more likely to use profanity and nonstandard English.
Women were more likely to hedge, either to communicate that they were unsure or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Hedging statements include: I think," "I assume," "sort of," "maybe," "probably,"  "generally," "may," "might," "would," "could," "isn't it?" and "didn't he?"  (Rita’s note: How often do you hear those words from a man?)

Even today, men generally speak with other men about physical activities such as fishing, money, sports, cars, politics, sex and business. Women are more likely to speak about home, family, and relationships with some self-disclosure. In general, men like to have the bottom line followed by the details, while women prefer details followed by the bottom line. Over the last few decades for various reasons, there has been a tendency for women to speak more assertively and for men to speak on emotional subjects. 

Lots to consider when writing dialogue. Next month, nonverbal communications.  Rita Bay

“Perceptions of Female and Male Speech,” Cheris Kramer, University of Illinois.
“What Are the Differences Between the Male & Female Language?” |


Sunshine and Shadows said...

Interesting. I think this is important to consider when writing dialogue. Thank you.

Big Mike said...

Boy are you right on. That's why I have co authored three romantic suspense novels with a female writer, Realism. Like our latest WHISPERS OF INNOCENCE, each time we both marvel at the difference in the voice and dialogue and how it sooooo represents reality.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Very important point to make. I'll look forward to the body language part, too.

Rita Bay said...

Thank you so much for your comments. Communications problems often occur between men and women result from misperceptions about what has been said - or not said. As Mike said, a collaboration can produce a book that is more realistic. Next month, my redneck, good old boy husband is a contributor to my post on nonverbal communications. Ever wonder what men say and do when women aren't around? HA! Rita

January Bain said...

I too look forward to your take on body language. This first part was very interesting and quite correct.