Communication. One of the most important issues we deal with on a daily basis whether at home, at school, or in the workplace. But, let’s cross it over into our online lives: Are the same communciation problems found there as in “real” or physical life? Are all the verbal inuendos getting in the way of true communication, especially between the sexes? Do words alone get across our feelings, problems, meanings, sarcasm/jokes, and advice? Do men and women ‘speak’ as differently online as they do offline?
In my research project, I concentrated on the communication found in weblogs, online journals, that many people keep nowadays. I aimed at studying the interaction, online, of two people as well as how they write autobiographically about their lives.

My subjects were an educated male and female within about 5 years age of each other that communicate, react to one another, online on almost a daily basis. From there, I plan to branch out and include more of each gender to see if the findings are found throughout each gender or are limited to just the communcation between the first two people.

A second focus with this research is on weblogging itself. Is this type of online service inviting different ways of communicate altogether? If males and females write/communicate in ways that back up past research, does the act of weblogging bring out new and unique ways of communication that both have in common and have not been discussed or researched before?

First of all, weblogging is a relatively new feature found on the internet to the general public today even though the weblogging activity started in 1994 with the birth of the internet. Then, computer scientists and ‘technogeeks’ used weblogs to simply log any information pertaining to their fields of research. At that point, as well, they were not used as online journals or diaries like we see today in the 21st century. Web designers have gotten a hold on the format of weblogs (text-based) and made them popular to a generation of people normally attracted to visual items.

Since weblogging (in either the journal or diary sense) is so new, research on the communication, pragmatics, and writing styles found in weblogs is nil. In fact, very little research has been conducted at all with online writing whether it be hypertext, chat rooms, or instant messenging.

What my preliminary research did include was: looking at gender communication in more oral or print areas, talking with others, including webloggers, on what they saw as differences in their online writing, and looking online for specific essays/research conducted by others that may include gender writing in the print arena if not online as well. Lastly, I looked towards reserach in rhetoric and composition for any connections between weblogging, alternative discourse, and alternative styles.

Wolfram’s research (1998) on gender concludes a contradiction: “Women appear to be more conservative than men, in that they use more standard variants, which often represent older language forms. At the same time, women appear to be more progressive than men, because they adopt new variants more quickly”. (p. 187) The webloggers I used for my study did not think they wrote in any certain specific way (females thinking they were more progressive, etc) online that was that unique or evolved from ‘normal’ or traditional writing. In fact, the female weblogger replied: “It will be interesting to see what you do find” since she did not think there was much to be found in the first place. I have to agree with her. Before beginning to analyze her and the male weblogger, I thought they would not back up research I had been reading about in Wolfram or Fasold.

Continuing along those lines of pre-research dialog, a discussion in my Composition and Rhetoric class lead us to the conclusion that weblogging could be considered an alternative style (therefore, a part of alternative academic discourse) of writing. This, again, enhanced my pondering the possibilities I could find. I was unaware of what great findings were about to appear before me.

In choosing subjects for this research, two people of different gender were chosen that had similar backgrounds so the research would not be construed based on outside factors other than gender. Jeremy and Emily come from different regions of the United States, but have similar backgrounds. Both are: in college (educated), single (talk of relationships or lack thereof), in their 20’s (have common issues), and interact with each other as well as others online through weblogging. This last connection, interaction, will aid the research in looking at online communication between genders as well as the basic autobiographical writing that these subjects create.

For my sources, was used as my primary online weblogging service. The subjects were taken from my list of webloggers that I read. Leaving it to people I know can construe the research, but it also allowed me to even research inside jokes and such since I know the people firsthand.

Of these two subjects, I have met one of them- Jeremy. I do, however, communicate with Emily online. Once these sources are researched to a level where I can start to pinpoint possible findings, I will expand my research into other webloggers of both genders (ones I know and do not know, perhaps) to see if those findings can be generalized throughout all weblogging between genders or if it was just narrowed to the first two subjects.

The format used to reserach went as follows: Weblogging comes in a simple format, thus the entries these subjects write are all in chronological order with the newest entry at the top of the webpage. For the most non-bias reserach possible, I went through various entries, tried to correlate the dates of the entries the same (if the female had a November 25th entry, I tried to use the male’s same November 25th entry to keep the data from the same date), and pasted the entries into a blank document. I then changed all their fonts to the same font and began reading/highlighting various differences that I saw.

Foci: Of the following findings in weblogging, the first ones are gender-specifc while the last finding is not. The following findings come from a collection of ten entries (days beginning November 8th, 2002 and ending December December 8th, 2002) from each of the two subjects. From there, various other entries from other webloggers are used to see if the research findings extend into a larger audience.

1. Length.
Females tend to have longer weblog entries and comments on other webloggers’ blogs in comparison to males. The actual found statistic within the ten entries is almost 2:1 in favor of the female webloggers. Within just the first ten entries I cut and pasted, the number of words for the female was at 4,306 and the male punched in at 2,808 words. In responses on each other’s weblogs, Jeremy used 500 words, and Emily remained almost double that with 805 words. Just by browsing through the list of other webloggers I read, I could visually see that the females on my list were ‘longer-winded’ than the males as well.

Reasoning for this finding coorelates to the research done by Wolfram that states women needing, in our society, to prove who they are through how they look or appear to others. Men don’t need to explain themselves or communicate effectively; they are judged by what they do instead in our society. (p. 189)

2. Use of Emoticons.
Emily and Jeremy use emoticons (unlike some of the other webloggers I read and researched), and they both use them pretty equally. In each entry (these did get lost in the cutting and pasting of their weblog entries), the chance that either of them may use an emoticons was great. According to, an emoticon is “an acronym for emotion icon, a small icon composed of punctuation characters that indicates how an e-mail message [or any online writing for that matter] should be interpreted (that is, the writer’s mood)” (1999). This makes sense in the usage that the weblog’s provide online. They are meant for people to communicate and emoticons, used by males and females, “are used for the inability to convey voice inflections, facial expressions, and bodily gestures in written communication” (, 1997).

3. Use of Tense.
Pining down exact past tense, present tense, and future tense verbs was a difficult task. Some sentences that had linking verbs, for example, were hard to place in a particular category. One example is Emily stating: “i have issues”. She is not stating that she’s had issues and is done with them, nor is she stating that she will have them in the future. Overall, the frequency of past tense usage leaned toward men more than women but not by an enormous factor. This backs up, again, the Wolfram research that males are based, in our society, by what they do- women on what they look like (appearance)(p. 189).

For instance, after both webloggers have had conversations with someone and are commenting on the experience later, each one uses a different tense. Jeremy writes: “SHE WAS A SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL” while Emily writes: “he’s damn fun to flirt with”. By using the past tense, the male weblogger emphasises that that person was something that he ‘did’ that day whereas Emily simply comments that the person IS currently still around, and she is not yet ‘done’ with that person.

In simply commenting on writing in their blogs, Jeremy writes: “I have not been able to get into my Xanga account for the past four or five days, not just yesterday” whereas Emily comments: “I am bad...I’m really bad about reading y’alls blog lately”. Emily accuses herself for not writing and reading others’, and Jeremy focuses his reasoning elsewhere.

These examples were the most surprising ones in that they emphasized current research, however, the overall use of past tense is not as overwhelming in the male weblogging as I previously thought. In certain cases, like in the examples above, however, the verb tense is noticeable.

4. Vernacular Findings.
Vernacular speech research within gender states that “women tend to use more standard language features than men, whose speech tends to be more vernacular”. Is vernacular, then, found more in male weblogging versus female weblogging. Then again, is her form, though, of vernacular different from his (Wolfram, 1998, p. 186).

Throughout weblogging, the male weblogger uses vernacular words more frequently while the female weblogger uses vernacular pragmatics in her sentence structure. Looking at vernacular word usage alone, Jeremy uses the full out version of “fuck”: “Today fucking sucked at work” unlike Emily who tones it down: “i frigging knew it, dude. i frigging knew it. add to that my jello-shotness..”. This difference is found frequently. Emily uses a less-blunted form of this such word with ‘frigging’ and ‘freaking’ or ‘fuked up’ instead of ‘fucked up’. ‘Freaking’ is found in Jeremy’s entries, but more as a verb and not an exclamation: “She freaked out because of Christmas and how difficult it will be now”. However, in one entry Jeremy contradicts the above and says in discussing his hunting from the previous weekend: “Yeah, I missed him. Twice. I spent the whole day saying the f-word repeatedly.”

The overall statistic here is not as astounding as I would have expected. Emily, in her 10 entries, had 9 ‘swear’ words whereas Jeremy had 13. However, only in one of Emily’s entries did she use the most harsh ‘swear’ word in our society, “fuck”, and that entry contains lots of anger. Again, the tendency for male webloggers to ‘swear’ is a bit more than the other female webloggers I read and researched. Like the findings with Emily and Jeremy, the males are much more likely to use the rougher ‘swear’ words than the females.

In using Emily’s example from the previous paragraph, the vernacular is seen through her creation of the word ‘jello-shotness’. Again, in current research, this is perhaps an example of the second general finding on Gender and Language Variation found in Wolfram which states that “women tend to adopt innovative language features much more quickly than men”.

5. Unconventional-ness.
What both genders had in common within the weblogging activity was that they both utilized new ways of communicating whether it was through lyrics, quotes from others (famous or otherwise), poems, etc. These genres are not found in regular communication whether it be academic writing or in spoken language. Other unconventional parts of weblogging include the use of emoticons, cyberspeak (LOL: Laughing Out Loud, BTW: By The Way, etc), and the ability for the weblogger to not have to focus on one particular subject or theme in each entry. Within academic writing, for instance, one has to have a thesis statement and back that statement up with reasons, usually placed in separate paragraphs, as well as have transitions from each reason to another. In weblogging, the weblogger, female or male, does not have to abide by that rule, that convention. Chunks of information and commentary can follow each other without reason or flow or a thesis statement to connect them all.

The unconventional-ness of weblogging coorelates back to the tense usage findings, perhaps. Since webloggers can write about anything, commenting on the past, writing poetry, or making goals for the future are all possible topics and themes. If all webloggers commented equally on daily life and events, then researchers may see a larger difference in tense usage.

While women and men differ in more areas than they are the same (just as what would be concluded in spoken language), together they prove that weblogging is a vernacular variety of language used by both.

Weblogging is a new form of oral vernacular used in the written form. While some webloggers are academic and traditional in the content of their weblogs (Dr. Kevin Brooks), the format alone leads to vernacular possibilities. Even though the content of entries don’t comprise of all the different items associated with vernacular, (For example: the spoken -in’ vs. -ing because it is a written language. Written language is always more standard than spoken language.), it does encompass the rest of Wolfram’s definition of vernacular. Weblogging is a “dialect of a speech community” found in the written form instead of spoken form, and webloggingg is often used to write in a “non-standard or non-mainstream variet(y) as opposed to the standard variety” (Wolfram, 1998, p. 365).
Research in Rhetoric and Composition shows that electronic writing, online publishing, is still considered “alternative academic discourse” rather than the traditional discourse found in standard written language.

Weblogging can also, therefore, be seen as a dialect simply because it is “a variety of the language associated with a particular regional or social group” (Wolfram, 1998, p. 350). The region here would be the online region of our 21st century lives, and the social group of the weblogging community would be the ones that could disseminate the weblogging dialect from others. In the weblogging dialect, one weblogger interacting with another weblogger may use certain cyberspeak terms and emoticons that he would not use offline. In chat rooms too, another online activity, the use of emoticons and cyberspeak terms differ from chat room to chat room. Each room may have it’s own variety of what is acceptable with cyberspeak terms and emoticons, so going into a certain chat room, or responding to a particular weblogging conversation, is much like entering a region physically on the map. A person may not be acknowledged simply because he or she may not know that chat room or weblogger’s online dialect.

Why do people write using nonstandardness in weblogs?

Some argue that an entirely new kind of consciousness is being induced by electronic technology. Gregory Ulmer, for instance, uses the term “electracy” to indicate a kind of practice or acumen in electronic media equivilent to print literacy. “In the history of human culture there are but three apparatuses: orality, literacy, and now electracy. We Weblogging 10
live in the moment of the emergence of electracy, comparable to the two principal moments of literacy.” ... I do believe with Ulmer, Mead, and others, that something not only needs to happen here, but something is happening here. The cumulative form that we make out of so-called postmodern events, ranging from fragmented print layouts and narratives to web surfing, may represent a resurgence of human creativity. (Guyer, 1996, p. 334)

This nonstandardness could also be explained by looking at how these webloggers utilize their weblogs in SPEAKING (found in The Ethnography of Communication theory)(Fasold, 1990, p. 44)- the Situation is a very comfortable one: Webloggers can write anywhere at anytime about anything. Rarely is stress involved like it is with writing traditional academic papers, for example. The Participants are varied. Professors weblog as do high schoolers. No HTML coding experience is required, and one does not need to even write very well to weblog. The Ends or outcomes and goals are as varied as the participants. Students use weblogging in my classroom to discuss papers, essays read in class, and ask questions about a range of activities. Dr. Kevin Brooks uses his weblog to filter out information from the internet that may be pertinent to his research or classroom. High school students use weblogs to gossip, rant and rave about problems, and to communicate with other high school blogger friends from near or far. Sometimes the goal is to write better and better, or just to simply write down one’s daily thoughts. The Key, or manner of spirit, again ranges from having sarcasm in one’s entries to including insights on life.

Access is a part of the Instrumentalities of weblogging. It is a written form of language but a written form only found online. In order to become a weblogger and gain the ‘online dialect’ experience, one must have access to a computer and the internet. Because it is open to only certain parts of society, one would think that it would be more traditionally based like the backbone of education, but even thought weblogging is only accessible to a few, it remains unconventional. There are no Norms to weblogging. There are, however, basic formats for the different sorts of weblogs one may find on the internet. The filter blog contains many links that have been sorted through by the filtering blogger so that the public, or visitors to the site, may check out places deemed the best whereas the format to the journal blog may or may not contain links to other sites. Genres included in weblogging range, like mentioned before, from poetry to quotes to conversations to lyrics of songs. The nonstandardness of weblogging, again, adds to the infinite possibilities of this online tool and service. Weblogging is just a slice of what online writing contains as far as research possibilities.

Do your findings corroborate or refute other research?
The gender research within weblogging corroborates past research, whereas the gender similarities opened up possibilities of researching weblogging, or online writing in general, as a new vernacular variety in our language.
Just as Fasold and Wolfram have found, women and men do communicate differently even when online and even when focusing their writing on themselves. Weblogging, in this case, simply extents what we find in ‘real life’ lived offline. Weblogging further questions online writing in the respect that it could be considered a new vernacular variety or dialect of the language spoken in that particular region.

Future research:
Differing class, age, time of entries, education, and personality into account may conclude weblogg writing differently. In my study, however, by making many factors the same (age, education, and class), the outcome was still varied in many areas. Whichever factors are taken into account, the conclusions will lead to society’s concept that women and men to communicate differently and that the reasons are based on how each sex is raised, where the power lies in society, as well as common separations like class and region.
Weblogging is a great source for looking at online vernacular. Future research of this would be interesting and helpful since:

As I’ve said, learning the online vernacular is important if you hope to understand what the heck some Net denizens are talking about. At the same time, it’ll also help if you can add to your e-mail messages a few choice morsels fo Net patois. Experienced globetrotters maintain that you’ll be greeted more warmly and treated more kindy by Weblogging 12
the locals if you learn a few key words and phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting. This tip could easily be applied to the online world as well, so the jargon becomes a kind of lingua franca for the Net set (McFedries, 2002)

There will always be great heaps of online research to look at because languages do evolve, and I forsee that as the internet goes, so will the online dialects and usages for language that are found there.

In conclusion, while research on weblogging is a relatively new area, the basic found theories in other research: communication between genders, vernacular and dialect defintions, and theories of alternative academic discourse and alternative styles seem to extent over into the possiblities of what can be found through researching weblogging.
My conclusion is that weblogging is a form of vernacular variety for use as a society, a new dialect, and a type of alternative discourse to be used academically or not in the future. These findings on weblogging, that both genders connected with, should perhaps not surprise us since “the nature of the internet has always been an ‘anything goes’ type of culture” (

-Reference List: APA format.
-Weblog entries from btwnheavenandhell and slug.




A Study in Gender Differences Leads to Vernacular/Dialect Findings

Sybil Priebe

North Dakota State University




Fashold, R. (1990). The Sociolinguistics of Language. Oxford: Blackwell
Guyer, C. (1996). Into the Next Room. In G. E. Hawisher & C. L. Self (Eds.), Passions Pedagogies and 21st Century Technologies (pp. 323-336). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.
McFredries, P. (2002). Learning the Lingo: E-mail Jargon and Acronyms. Paul McFedries Web Home. Available:
Schroeder, C., Fox, H., & Bizzell, P. (2002). Alternative Discourses and the Academy. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook- Heinemann.
Unknown Author (2002). Definition of ‘Emoticon’. Available:
Unknown Author (2002). Defintions/Acronyms/Abbreviations. Computer Knowledge. Available:
Unknown Author (1997). Common Emoticons and Acronyms. The Primitive Baptist Web Station. Available:
Wolfram, W., & Schilling-Estes, N. (1998). American English. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.