The Language of Getting You Laid

It seems that a bunch of you are into linguistics. That’s cool. I like that about you. And if not, you at least like reading words because…well, here you are. Reading these words. Something special, words are. They tell you a lot about people. Sometimes they tell you a lot about people you don’t even want to know things about. Like the cute girl you just met’s string of horrible exes. But you can’t be mad at words. They were just doing their job and as it turns out, it may be the words you barely pay attention to that can predict whether you and the cute girl with the unfortunate string of exes will make the cutest couple that you ever did see.

A study by Alex Pennebaker and Molly Ireland developed a metric they call Language Style Matching. “Function words” (a, I, you, me, for, of, on, but, and, etc.) are often mimicked between two conversing parties. When two people use a similar level of personal pronouns, articles, and prepositions, it’s more likely that they will have romantic interest in each other.

In the first study, pairs of college students had four-minute speed dates while their conversations were recorded. Almost every pair covered the same topics: What’s your major? Where are you from? How do you like college? Every conversation sounded more or less the same to the naked ear, but text analysis revealed stark differences in language synchrony. The pairs whose language style matching scores were above average were almost four times as likely to want future contact as pairs whose speaking styles were out of sync.

A second study also revealed a pattern in electronic communication.

“Almost 80 percent of the couples whose writing style matched were still dating three months later, compared with approximately 54 percent of the couples who didn’t match as well.”

If it's a match, maybe this will happen to your keyboard.

Intrigued? There’s an online Language Style Matching application that you can use to assess the compatibility between two parties. I wouldn’t suggest using it to make any decisions about whether you should stick it out with your significant other but it couldn’t hurt. Maybe you should read the book before you rely on the information that heavily. For those unattached, think of all the ways you can use this metric to zero in on which of your many options (you’re such a ladykiller!) you should pursue. Got an online crush? Run it through the app! Chatting with a girl on ASS chat? Start copy and pasting! Think your TA is super hot? Plug in something they’ve written with your last reading response! Sure, Autostraddlers give great advice, but every now and then you need someone to encourage you to be a creepstar because you never know when it’s going to pay off.

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Brittani Nichols is a Los Angeles based comedy person. When she's not tweeting about white people or watching television, she's probably eating pizza. Actually, she's probably doing all three of those things concurrently and when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping. Brittani also went to Yale and feels weird about mentioning it but wants you to know.

Brittani has written 328 articles for us.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this, Brittani! I have heard similar things about body language. People who are into each other will mimic each other’s movements too. It’s been suggested that to make someone like you, you can cheat and mimic her so she’s more into you. Does it really work that way? It’s a chicken/egg thing: Does she like you more because you mirror each other, or do you mirror each other because she likes you? This seems too subconscious to cheat, so I would guess the latter. But who knows. I’d give the app a try, at least to see how on point it is. I’m going to start with emails from someone I hate as a test. Haha.

    • I’d never heard of tricking someone into liking you with physical mimicry. Gah. Do I only like bizarro versions of myself? I’m scared.

    • yeah it’s called synchrony. it’s like unconsciously mirroring the other person’s movements. but it only happens within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone or else it probably won’t happen. so no, you can’t fake it. probably you won’t even notice it, you’ll just feel ecstatic about the person you are talking to =)

  2. This was really interesting (it’s fascinating how much technology can do and how much depth there is to language), but I *really* want that keyboard! :D

    • Theoretically if you used google translate to put all of the text through it shouldn’t change the science of it because each person’s text is being subjected to the same translation algorithms. So if the spanish was similar by 85%, the google translated versions should also be 85% similar. I’m pretty much making this up though.

  3. The grammar and sintax are different… and I’d rather translate it myself than use Google Translate (I don’t like it), but then it’d turn a bit subjetive, I guess, because I’d translate the slang too and akñjbfñgfbjf,fv, nah, too complicated.

      • Yeah, that’s what I’m saying, it’s the one time where google translate actually has value other than as a dictionary, because you’re not making conscious decisions of word choice, you already did that with the spanish. You’re just using the same mathematical formula on two separate pieces of text/data to make it readable to the program. Doesn’t matter how close it is to what the actual spanish would be.

        • Easy way to test this: write the same thing in both english and spanish, run the spanish through Google Translate, then analyze them separately. If your theory is right, they should have a similar percentage after they’re analyzed.

          • Okay, since you guys insisted (?), I TRIED IT. I tried it blindly. I didn’t correct anything at all, I just passed the GTtranslate, and left all the rough text there. Looked pretty awful haha

            “Your LSM score is 0.78”

            If I don’t take into account the whole GT deal, I’d say it’s probably quite accurate (would’ve scored a bit higher without the language barrier probably), since this was my straight girl friend haha

  4. This kind of thing is the only reason I made it through classes like Close Relationships and Self And Identity without pulling my hair out. I really hate the arbitrariness of social psychology in general but this is something real and measurable that isn’t a made-up scale! It’s still sort of made up though;) (Pennebaker still uses scales like whether pronouns are inclusive (“we”) or exclusive (“you”, “I”, “they”, etc.) which you can’t always infer correctly from a text, and has self-report measures like how happy people think they are in their relationships. People are notorious for not really knowing what they think, and for lying.)

    Aside from my bitterness at the whole school of thought behind social psych, I really appreciate Autostraddle featuring psychological research! Thanks! :)

  5. Wait, so now I need to find someone who talks like me? Well, shit this just got a lot harder, my syntax is a crazy jumbled mess of influences.

  6. For shits and giggles, I put a sample of my own writing in each box…. and it said I was incompatible with myself. lol

  7. Well, I tried myself with myself… and scored a .9

    My girlfriend and I scored .85, so I guess that means I’m pretty damn close to dating myself. Not surprising since all of our friends have long since taken up to referring to us as Clia (what happens when you add Chloe + Lia). Even when we were just friends, “We’re like the same person!” was an eerily common phrase to escape our lips. Yep. We’re that couple that makes you barf.

  8. Ahh, Alienware keyboard!! I am saving up for an Alienware… to play Skyrim with, hehheh. But this is quite interesting. If you spend a lot of time with someone you start kinda talking/writing like them a bit, it rubs off.

  9. too bad all of the things i write on ass chat have made me the opposite of a ladykiller. lol not to mention my horrible spellings

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