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Those of you who know me, know that I am mother to two gorgeous daughters (well, they are MOST of the time!). My youngest is 2 ½ and is at that fantastic age where language becomes her primary way of controlling and influencing those around her. Don’t get me wrong, she will still resort to a tantrum if language doesn’t work, but they are fewer and further between these days!

My eldest is six and her command of the English language is just astounding. She hears, remembers, uses, experiments and occasionally makes up words with amazing dexterity (there is a good one for you Lottie!). However, already, her peers are using language differently and adopting different strategies in order to get the outcome they desire.

From a relatively early age, boys and girls choose to spend most of their time playing in same-sex groups. This does not mean they can’t play together in mixed groups, it just means that all things being equal, they won’t usually choose to do so.

Boys prefer to play in large groups. These groups have a structure within them which creates a hierarchy, and ultimately, a leader. Their games will likely have rules or laws (which the leader can change at their discretion!) and the outcome of the game will be the declaration of a winner (or winners) and a loser (or losers). In order to stand out within the group, boys have to either achieve the status of leader, or take on the role of wise-guy and be the one who creates comedy within the ranks by making people laugh.

Girls prefer to play in small groups, frequently just pairs, creating the status of Best Friend as a title which carries significant weight for them. Their games often revolve around the concept of everyone having a turn and only rarely will they allow for winners/losers to be identified. They are rarely preoccupied with the issue of status, preferring to be liked rather than lead.

So, it shouldn’t really surprise us to learn that the ways we use language differs significantly too. In fact, they differ so obviously that a computer programme has now been developed which can reliably determine whether the adult author of a written piece of text, is male or female.

The key here is to turn it round though. To what extent are the pieces of text you produce, relevant, interesting and accessible to your audience? Do they appeal to women and men equally? Or are they naturally favouring one or the other?

Is that how you want and intend it to be?

Tag…you’re it now!