With our business, the first contact we have with potential clients is usually over the telephone.

Most times this does not create a problem, however, when I can’t differentiate a voice being male and female, it can.

And…that has happened to me.

I ended up addressing a person “Mr. ….”, when in fact, it was a “Mrs.”.

I was embarrassed.

Today’s Lesson

Online, all we have to go on is a person’s name, and sometimes a photo.

When a blog is absent a photo of the blog author, it comes down to a name.

Add to that how some bloggers use a pseudonym, a nickname or keywords and the confusion can escalate.

Theย  first time I encountered gender confusion was when a blogger named “Nez” (who is currently on hiatus) showed up in the comment section. I had read the blog Nez linked to and “assumed” Nez was a guy, however, Cath Lawson stated she thought Nez was a gal and I began to doubt my first “guess”.ย  When the topic was brought up in the “Blogger Exposes Herself – Traffic Sours” post, Nez commented and admitted to being a male.

When I’m answering comments or leaving comments on other blogs, I like to know what gender the blog author is. Not that it REALLY matters, but I envision if I’m talking to a gal or guy and often construct my comments accordingly.

Ifย  I reference or link to fellow blogger, I like to be able to say, “He said..” orย  “She said…”.

Saying something like “Search Engine Marketing Guru From Timbuktu Two Who Can Teach You How To Make Money Online Overnight said…” sounds pretty impersonal.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have to throw this out there.

Today’s Assignment

Do you like knowing if you’re communicating with a male or female online?

Is your gender obvious?

If not, why?

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  1. Yes, I like to get to know my readers. I often add them as facebook friends and get to know their families too.

    I think I picked up from you, Barbara, the idea of writing to a small group of friends. I’ve also told you how I miss my family being far away from them, so I often write as if I am writing a letter to them.

    Thanks for your ideas. They always get us to think.

    Julie
    Check out Julie @ jbulie’s blog’s awesome post.All things beautiful and kind.My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Julie,

      That’s a good point, When we meet others through our blogs, we often also friend them on Facebook. With Facebook being more personal, it’s nice to know who is behind the name.

  2. Well, my gender is obvious. lol

    I also prefer to know the gender when I’m speaking to or about someone. Not only does it sound better, but you’re right, it’s just more personal. With all the various user names out here, it’s very hard to tell. Especially if a picture is not available.
    Check out Heather Villa’s awesome post.These People Will Destroy Your BusinessMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Heather,

      Very true. A user name doesn’t necessarily tell us the gender of another blogger and if they don’t provide a photo on their blog or with their avatar, we’re left guessing. Hopefully we guess right.

  3. Mandy AllenNo Gravatar says:

    Gosh, now there’s a question, Barbara. Certainly on here everyone knows I am female, but in the street I have a bit of trouble sometimes as I like to wear my hair short and I always wear trousers. Interesting question. I have also made mistakes with people’s gender. Embarrassing, isn’t it! I guess I too like to know.

    Enjoy the journey.

    Mandy
    Check out Mandy Allen’s awesome post.When did you last feel good?My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Mandy,

      Yes. It is embarrassing when we misjudge the gender of a person.

      Your story reminds me of a friend of mine who has short hair and once when she was in a restaurant and her back was to the waitress. The waitress said, “What can I get for you men?” She was very offended, turned around and said. “EXCUSE ME, I AM NOT a man!” I’m guessing the mistake was also reflected in the tip. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Despite my foreign name, I think my gender is fairly obvious. I do think it’s important, though most people understand that “knowing” someone online is not the same as knowing them in real life.
    Check out vered | professional blogger’s awesome post.Be Kind To Your BehindMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Vered,

      With your name being so unique, even if you didn’t show your photo I’d guess you were female.

      That’s true. “…โ€œknowingโ€ someone online is not the same as knowing them in real life.”

  5. Kelvin KaoNo Gravatar says:

    I feel like even if the blogger has an ambiguous, you can often still tell the gender of the blogger by looking at the writing. I am not talking about trying to guess the gender from diction or content. I just think that if there are no clues at all about the gender, the blog’s content probably doesn’t talk about anything remotely personal. In that case, I am probably not that interested in and have no need of interacting with that person unless the subject is interesting enough. Even if it is, then we’ll just be talking about mostly that particular subject. The discussion will not be personal in any way and the blogger will probably be referred to that much. Maybe “you” will then suffice in that case.

    Of course, in most cases, it’s obvious.
    Check out Kelvin Kao’s awesome post.I am Famous! Well, Not Reallyโ€ฆMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Kelvin,

      I know what you’re saying. If we have no clue as to the gender of the blog author, and they’re not sharing anything personal, it’s almost like the communication is stifled. Although that may work for some, I prefer being more open and share at least some personal stuff.

  6. Tony SingleNo Gravatar says:

    Yeah, I can see what you mean, Barbara. I like to know a blogger’s gender too for much the same reasons you’ve outlined. Also, I feel it’s a good thing to know so that I don’t ever inadvertently type anything that might be considered inappropriate in my comments. The last thing I want is to be seen to be harassing someone of the opposite sex or something!

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Tony,

      That’s a good point. If we know we’re talking to a specific gender, we may word things differently and in some cases it could offend the author.

      I also find when I’m sharing an atta boy or atta girl, I like to know I’m using the correct gender. I would be very embarrassed if I said, “You go, girl” to a guy.

  7. FriarNo Gravatar says:

    I think it’s one thing to use a pen-name, to protect your privacy.

    But I think it’s another thing altogether, to deliberately deceive people, and go out of your way to maintain a charade, to create a persona of someone you’re not. Especially when people are giving you money in good faith for your services.

    When you do that, you’re basically lying to your readers.

    And there might be consequences…just be prepared to pay for them.
    Check out Friar’s awesome post.Friarโ€™s Fishing PhilosophyMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Friar,

      I’m all for using pen names to protect the identity of a blogger. In some cases, if they were to use their real name, there could be huge consequences in their real life.

      Deceit does have a price. Like you said, “be prepared to pay”.

  8. Lori HoeckNo Gravatar says:

    When I wrote mostly as SpaceAgeSage, there was some confusion, but at the time — as a newbie blogger — I valued not being labeled by anything other than my writing. If I’m reading and researching for information, the author’s gender doesn’t usually matter. If the blogger is part of a community, then I think they need to be upfront about such things.
    Check out Lori Hoeck’s awesome post.Self defense as common sense is a rare traitMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Lori,

      I never thought of that, but you raise a good point. When a blogger joins a community, being upfront about their gender not only builds trust, but it can also work in their favor to gain a larger readership. If they’re only trying to game a community, word could spread and soon they may find they’re all alone.

      The take away on that one: Don’t scam blog communities.

  9. CarolineNo Gravatar says:

    I suppose it depends on *what* you are talking about… But I don’t really care if it’s a man or a woman that I am talking to on-line. And, if you come to my blog…the femininity pretty much slaps you in the face ;). I swear if I could make my page scented like flowers I would!
    Check out Caroline’s awesome post.Yeah…well, I’m just not gonna worry about that today…My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Caroline,

      Oh, I love that. “I swear if I could make my page scented like flowers I would!” Maybe we can start “scratch and sniff” blog themes. 8)

  10. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – I would prefer to know – I’ve referred to folk as he when it should have been she before and it was so embarrassing.

    I’m with Friar on the use of pseudonyms – they’re fine, unless they’re intended to deceive people.

    I used the services of a man on my blog a good while ago. He had access to everything, including my posts in draft. I couldn’t help but notice that a “friend” of the guy also had a business blog and kept writing about a lot of the topics I had in draft. It turned out that “he” – the guy who did the work for me, was actually a “she” – the same “she” who had that business blog.

    There were many other things that pissed me off about that situation but I won’t go on. She is just lucky that folk who know have kept quiet about her real identity.
    Check out Cath Lawson’s awesome post.Why The Perfect Small Business Owner Doesnโ€™t ExistMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Cath,

      Thank you for sharing your story of deceit. What you’ve shared is a good lesson for all of us who may think of turning our blog over to someone else to work on. It’s VERY important we feel comfortable with sharing passwords, etc. If we’re not, it’s best to leave things as they are, learn how to fix them ourselves or pay to have someone provide a video or a visual walk through.

  11. Sam LiuNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Thankfully, I have never found myself in this situation and I hopefully never will do. I agree with you Barbara; I feel the need to know if the person I’m talking to is male or female. It wouldn’t change how I approach conversation, I just think it adds a more personal touch to a blogging relationship. That’s why I think About pages are so important – I am far more compelled to read a blogger’s posts if I know who she/he is, if I have a general idea of their nationality etc.

    But, some bloggers choose to remain anonymous and that’s their decision. I don’t have a problem with it, after all, it’s their identity – it’s their right to do with it what they will.
    Check out Sam Liu’s awesome post.Footnotes To Plato – A StoryMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Sam,

      That’s true. Our “About” page is a great place to share our identity and/or gender with others. If we’re using a pen name, we can simply say, “I’m a female/male, blah, blah, blah, … writing under the pseudonym of ….”

      Like you, I respect those who choose not to share their true identity.

  12. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    When I was in High School forms started to be digital or computer savvy. I always ended up in boys PE and shop and ….my poor brother Francis ended up just the reverse! Both my older daughters had fellows with the same first name in their grades at school ๐Ÿ™‚

    It is good to know, and if it is truly important to you or you would be offended or upset – then tell the person if you have a pen name or gender confusing name – it is just as offensive to play games.
    Check out Patricia’s awesome post.Savannah Blues: A Novel ~Mary Kay AndrewsMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Patricia,

      I hear you. If someone chooses a name that can be confusing and they’re not willing to disclose their gender, then they shouldn’t be offended if someone mistakes them for the opposite.

      That’s also a good lesson for those who are new to blogging and may be thinking of writing under a pseudonym; if you don’t want to be mistaken for the opposite sex, pick a suitable name.

  13. NezNo Gravatar says:

    I’m not the Nez in question, but I’m a Nez. It’s a real name too, had the nickname my whole life.

    It’s also not hard to tell my gender too. Just a quick look at a photo of me anywhere online tells you that. I’m either a guy, or a woman with a goatee beard. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’m definately not on ‘hiatus’ either. ๐Ÿ™‚

    To answer your question though, yes, I like to to know the gender of the person I’m communicating with. It doesn’t change the way I comminucate, but it does help me form a picture of where the other person is coming from.

    Cheers,
    Nez

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Nez,

      I just clicked over to the link and can see how you got your nickname. With the last name of “Nesbitt”, Nez is very fitting. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like you, I also picture whom I’m “talking to”, thus, knowing their gender makes constructing a comment a whole lot easier.

  14. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    It reminds me of the tail end of the Ted talk, “Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception” where the girls kissed monkeys, thinking they were guys.

    I like to think that I’m communicating with Barbara the female.

    I’m a guy and I think my gender is obvious, but maybe I need a pic of me when I don’t shave and look more like a pirate ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Check out J.D. Meier’s awesome post.Lessons Learned from DadMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi J.D.,

      Kissing monkeys?

      When communicating with you, I also like knowing I’m “talking to” J.D., the guy.

      Do you have a photo of you unshaven and looking like a pirate? Care to share? ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Alien GhostNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Good question! Yes I do like to know, not only the gender of the blogger, but also his/her age area, which I believe is also important when it comes to construct an answer or a comment.

    Also as a way to relate the post of the blogger with the blogger him/herself. A childish post from a mature blogger? Iโ€™m out!

    โ€œIs you gender obvious?โ€

    From the name I use I say no, but a picture posted by the side should fix that problem (I believe I look like a male in the picture ๐Ÿ™‚

    Raul
    Check out Alien Ghost’s awesome post.The Perfect Place to LiveMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Raul,

      I never thought how an age bracket can affect our comments, but in some cases it could.

      No. Your sign in name isn’t necessarily gender specific, but your advatar gives us a clue. And when you sign off and use “Raul”, we know you’re a guy. Plus, you also show photos of yourself on your blog. You’ve got it covered. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. I definitely like to know who I’m addressing .. but we all make mistakes and it can be so difficult. Sometimes names muddle us .. a Hilary can be a man .. there are so many variations on names now-a-days .. it’s tricky trying to remember everyone .. I quite often say to myself .. or out loud – I wish every would be Sue, Ann, Elizabeth .. etc etc!

    Interesting that we all like to know who we’re commenting with and blogging with ..

    Have a great week – thank you .. Hilary
    Check out Hilary’s awesome post.Nature in Balance … and the Dark-Bellied Dew Lover!My Profile

  17. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Hilary,

    Haha! You do know there’s a Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”, don’t you. ๐Ÿ™‚ Check it out on YouTube.

    Seriously though, it can be very confusing. Even in real life with some of the newer names. Like you said, it’s not like girls are named Ann, Sue or Elizabeth and guys are named Robert, Thomas or Raymond. Now, anything goes for either gender.

    Have a great week too, Hilary.

  18. Thanks for an interesting post. Since I have the same online identity everywhere including photo, I am sure people know who I am and what gender I am. But I do run into that with both resume clients and people we are sending resumes too. When all you have is a name and it is Kelly or Chris or some other multi-gender name, I resort to first name/last name but it does make it harder.
    Check out Julie Walraven | Resume Services’s awesome post.Donโ€™t sabotage yourselfMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Julie,

      In your business, I can see how it would be difficult especially if you’re communicating with a client and you have no idea what gender they are. Not that it makes a difference, but it’s nice to know.

  19. Such an interesting question, because when you’re online you really don’t know who you’re talking to. I did have a situation where I was communicating with someone I thought was a girl, and they turned out to be a guy. They had a unisex name, and their writing style wasn’t really particularly male or female. Thankfully I discovered my mistake before I made a mistake!
    Check out Claire – Gratitude Connection’s awesome post.Today I’m grateful for…My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Claire,

      Sometimes we don’t know, do we? And when their writing style doesn’t give them away, we’re left wondering.

      That’s good you found out before you made a mistake.

      It makes me wonder how a blogger would feel if we contacted them and said we were uncertain of their gender. Maybe some aren’t aware that it matters, whereas others might want it that way.

  20. George AngusNo Gravatar says:

    Hmmm. I guess I’d like to know, but it really doesn’t matter to me. I’ve been surprised once or twice and with the exception of trickery, it didn’t affect me one way or the other.

    George
    Check out George Angus’s awesome post.Simple Tips to Overcome the Fear of WritingMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi George,

      Yes. Sometimes it is a surprise. And when that happens all we can do is hope we didn’t embarrass ourselves by addressing them by the wrong gender. That said, if a blogger is continually mistaken for the wrong gender, it’s up to them to decide how to handle it. (maybe a different online name, or….)

  21. SaraNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara — This is interesting to think about. I can’t honestly think of time when I didn’t know the gender of someone. If they are new to my site, I usually check out their site before I even comment, especially if it’s an odd or unusual name. So far, I’ve been able to tell at their site.

    Then again, for all I know, one of my readers might be a different gender than I think, but I still respond to their comments in the same way — it’s based on what they wrote.

    This is a challenging question for me. I’ll try to pay attention and see what happens if I don’t know the gender from the name.

    Thanks, Barbara:~)
    Check out Sara’s awesome post.Story Photo: Picture of BonesMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Sara,

      That’s true. If we read their about page, we can usually tell. I think the confusion arises, like others mentioned, when a blogger has a unisex name and doesn’t disclose their gender or show a photo of themselves on their blog.

  22. LanceNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Yes, I DO like to know the gender of my readers, especially when I’m commenting back to someone. The same goes for *most* of the sites I visit…especially those where I feel some sort of personal connection to what’s written.

    And…I *think* my gender is obvious…although I have been known to wear a wig…which may give a different take on gender! Then again…maybe the wig just scares people, too!!
    Check out Lance’s awesome post.Hills of Africa โ€“ A Journey Into YouMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      LOL Lance,

      Even with that pink wig, we know it’s still you. I think it’s those smiling eyes. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hear you. When we visit others, or they visit us, we do develop some sort of connection with other bloggers. Knowing their gender makes it a lot easier to communicate, doesn’t it?

  23. Oh Barbara — I once thought a guy blogger was a girl — was I EMBARASSED how it came out in comments! He was a good sport about it and I felt awful. But mistakes happen when we’re human.

    And a guy I blog with spells his name in the female version, but luckily I realized before I put my foot in my mouth as I did with the first man — like Claire above, I discovered my mistake before I made a mistake.

    Gender and blogging? Yes, I like to know, I think I like to know in real life too. Does that make me weird? I mean — weirder than usual. ๐Ÿ™‚

    xo

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jannie,

      Your comment is proof how easy that can happen. And to add to it, others might reference the blogger with the feminine spelled name and say “she…”. I think if that happened too many times, I’d definitely be either adding a photo of myself or changing my screen name.

      LOL at you wanting to know in real life, too. Yup! Sometimes that’s difficult, too.

  24. ColleenNo Gravatar says:

    I ended up addressing a person โ€œMr. โ€ฆ.โ€, when in fact, it was a โ€œMrs.โ€.

    This happened to me two months ago. For 3 years I’ve been dealing with a “Holly” online and always assumed it was a girl. Even the avatar looked like a girl. To my surprise it was a male. Yikes! Fortunately, this was all played out through a third party so Holly never found out I had a little gender confusion going on. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Check out Colleen’s awesome post.Full DisclosureMy Profile

  25. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Colleen,

    Who’d think “Holly” was a male? Like you, I’d assume the same. Thank goodness you found out the truth and didn’t put your foot in your mouth.

  26. sharboriNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbari,

    i do like to know the gender of the visitor who is leaving comments on my blog or even those who just visit. it helps me to see which gender is reading my blog more, also helps me to guess the nature of their comments and the life space from where they would be sharing.

    having said this, on the other hand, this is not absolutely necessary, there are times when i like to guess and play around with my guesses or assumptions.

    I find the anonymity in the cyber space both as an opportunity and a threat and depending upon where we are positioning ourselves from.
    Check out sharbori’s awesome post.Amazing women in my life – part 2My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Sharbori,

      That’s a good point. Say for example, we find most of our readers are female; we may realize we need to change the way we write to some degree. Not to the degree of being unauthentic, but as we all know, we have a tendency to “talk” differently when speaking to men and women.

      And yes. At times, guessing the gender can become a fun game. ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. I suppose in some circumstances knowing a person’s gender can be helpful. Though in the course of communicating through comments or emails, it is possible to remain gender neutral in your use of pronouns and other references since you are focusing on a discussion topic. Gender doesn’t usually enter into communicating such ideas.
    Check out Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella’s awesome post.Want To Write More Engaging Posts? Think Like A TelemarketerMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Joella,

      Yes. Some circumstances do require us to know the gender of who we’re communicating with, whereas other times, it become irrelevant.

  28. Hmm… that’s an interesting topic ๐Ÿ™‚ In fact, blogging and socnets bring in a lot of people to you in a short span that you get very less time to analyze and identify each and every person that you interact with. Things are even more difficult with cultural differences and difficult names. It’s probably easier to check these details in a facebook profile but not always in a blog.

    When I receive a comment on my blog from a new commenter, I make it a point to visit his/her URL if given there, read a couple of posts and the about page. Sometimes, the URL points to certain landing pages and in that case I do not care to learn more about them. Otherwise, I will try my best to dig in..
    Check out Ajith Edassery’s awesome post.Are you selling your stocks at the wrong time?My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Ajith,

      Very true. With cultural differences, including names we’re not familiar with, it can be even more difficult to guess which gender we’re speaking to. Checking about pages is one way, but like you said, if we’re interacting with a lot of people in a short span, that may not be an option.

  29. peterNo Gravatar says:

    I’am newbie blogger…i like your topic. Very interesting and now i want to say hello to everyone.
    Check out peter’s awesome post.Slovakia – One Of The Countryโ€™s Greatest TreasuresMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Peter,

      Welcome to blogging. I checked out your site and like what you’ve done thus far.

      Hope to see you again soon.

      Happy Blogging!

  30. Barbara: Great post. I was laughing out loud when I read this because I have definitely incorrectly assumed gender before. I do think it is important to know how you are speaking to. It adds a different dimension to the conversation when you know who you are speaking to … especially on the blogosphere where connections are already so distant.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Sibyl,

      It’s easy to do, isn’t it? And like you said, with our connections in blogosphere being distant, it’s just nice to know. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. AnneNo Gravatar says:

    I also had this kind of experience before. I mistakenly called my reader Mr instead of a Ms. She was using a pseudonym and later I found out that she is a woman. I felt ashamed of what I have done. It is indeed great to know your readers gender because you can find the right word to call them as a form of respect.

  32. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Anne,

    I agree. When we’re showing respect to our readers and want to use the correct salutation, it makes it even harder to do when the visitor is using a confusing sounding pseudonym.

    That said, Those who are using misleading names (not necessarily on purpose), need to understand there will be times when others are confused about their gender and will address them incorrectly.

  33. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara.
    It’s hard to explain why (because other than addressing the person correctly it “shouldn’t” make a difference), but I prefer to know the gender of the person I’m communicating with. Otherwise the conversation feels more artificial in some way. With my name, I think my gender is pretty obvious. I made the mistake once of addressing a female blogger as a male. It was a wee bit embarrassing, but she took it all in good stride.

  34. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Davina,

    I agree. It REALLY shouldn’t make a difference, but just for piece of mind and easier communication, it’s nice to know what gender we’re talking to.

    I agree. Your name obviously lets others know they dealing with a female, plus you provide your photo, too. ๐Ÿ™‚