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Best Vocabulary Words For Essays On Love

When writing about love, men are more likely to write about sex, and women about marriage. Women write more about feelings, men about actions.

Even as gender roles have merged and same-sex romance has become more accepted, men and women still speak different languages when they talk about love — at least, if Modern Love essays submitted to The New York Times are any indication.

We examined the last four years of essay submissions and charted the words along two dimensions: whether the essay was published and the author’s gender.

Words toward the top of the chart above are more likely in published essays, and those on the bottom are more likely in rejected ones; words on the right of the chart are more likely in essays submitted by women, while those on the left are more likely in essays by men. We found overlap in both dimensions, represented by words in purplish circles near the center of the chart. But there were striking differences, too.

First, between men and women: When men wrote about family, they used words like “father,” “dad” and “son,” while women used “mother,” “mom” and “daughter.” (And we checked — in these essays, the writers were almost always referring to their own or their partner’s family members, not themselves.)

Words used by men and women when talking about family

Of course, these essays represent a highly unrepresentative sample. Yet many of the patterns are backed up by research.

Parents report feeling a closer relationship to a child of the same sex even before babies are born, some studies have shown. They tend to spend more time with children of the same sex and are more likely to say they want a child of their sex. And children often look to parents of the same sex as role models for relationships.

Other studies have shown that females are more likely to talk about emotions than males are, and parents are more likely to use a larger emotional vocabulary with girls and to tell boys not to cry. Boys are generally taught to express anger; girls are advised the opposite.

That pattern shows up in these charts, too. Men’s words tended to be more active: “bomb,” “hit,” “strike,” “punch,” “battle.” Women were more likely to describe feelings: “resentment,” “furious,” “agony,” “hurt;” they were also significantly more likely to use the word “feel.” Men, meanwhile, didn’t write about different emotions than women – they just mentioned fewer of them.

Notable differences between male and female authors

And regarding sex versus love, men and women want both, said William Doherty, a couples counselor and professor of family science at the University of Minnesota. But sexual chemistry is more often an initial filter for men entering a relationship, while closeness is for women.

Still, the line between male and female behavior — emotional, romantic and otherwise — is blurring, said Robin Lakoff, professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Back in the 50s, men could show anger, rivalry and hostility, so they could swear,” she said. “Women could show fear, sorrow and love, and so they could cry.”

Today, she said, “it’s probably best to say we are somewhat confused about gender roles and stereotypes.”

Differences in published and rejected essays

Our analysis also offered hints about what kind of essays are published versus those that are rejected.

For example, what’s telling about many of the nouns near the top of the chart is how concrete they are. They suggest specific characters who might stride through a story — one’s father, doctor, children, mother, boyfriend or therapist — as well as where it might unfold: at a party, in an apartment, on the couch, at dinner, in bed, on a futon, at the altar, in the hospital. That specificity appears to have caught an editor’s attention and made for engaging reading.

It’s also worth noting how many more adjectives there are near the bottom of the chart — for example, “familiar,” “digital,” “beautiful,” “excited,” “proud” and “endless” — compared with top, which included “fine,” “mysterious” and “sexual.” As E.B. White put it in “The Elements of Style”: “There is nothing wrong, really, with any word — all are good, but some are better than others.”

Selected adjectives

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

High vocabulary words for essays

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