Sometimes when I'm reading an article or a review online, I can tell where the writer is from (or not from), from their writing. It's not necessarily only from the vocabulary they use, or word choice (lift/elevator). I'm not sure what I'm picking up, but I'm accurately (most times) very quickly able to tell, if not where the author is from, than definitely that they are not from a certain country (or typical to how someone from that country writes). What do you call that?

For example,

"Based on his _________, I'm pretty sure he's from [insert country]"


"Judging from his _________ I don't this he's from [insert country]."

  • "In sociolinguistics, a style is a set of linguistic variants with specific social meanings. In this context, social meanings can include group membership, personal attributes, or beliefs. [...] Variation can occur syntactically, lexically, and phonologically."
    – user267172
    Jun 1, 2021 at 2:40
  • 1
    Are you looking for a word like shibboleth?
    – Jim
    Jun 1, 2021 at 3:02
  • “From from their writing” (sic) isn’t what it’s called. Please edit your question’s title.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 1, 2021 at 5:13
  • This question seems relevant, although it's about an individual's writing style not a national writing style. National writing style is unlikely to exist as a single English word, although there may be a compound German term you could construct and then use in English. english.stackexchange.com/questions/370980/…
    – Stuart F
    Jun 1, 2021 at 8:56

2 Answers 2


There could be several words, depending on whether or not the author's national origin was inadvertently disclosed.

Inadvertent disclosure


Wikipedia defines a (poker) tell:

A tell in poker is a change in a player's behavior or demeanor that is claimed by some to give clues to that player's assessment of their hand. A player gains an advantage if they observe and understand the meaning of another player's tell, particularly if the tell is unconscious and reliable.

If the written passage were a poker hand, and you consider yourself playing against the writer, then the writer has a tell which reveals some hidden information, such as his bias or national origin.

A character in his book consumed a lot of paracetamol. If he were American, he would have called it Tylenol or acetaminophen. Judging from the author's tell, I don't think he is from the US.


Here is an EL&U answer that describes Shibboleth. (Props to @Jim for his comment.)

This word comes from the Old Testament. Soldiers from the tribe of Ephraim were trying to cross over the Jordan river, but another tribe, the Gileadites, controlled the river. So to identify the enemy soldiers, the Gileadites had the soldiers of Ephraim say a word they'd probably mispronounce.

They said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.'" If he said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. (Judges 12:6, NIV)

The inadvertent disclosure would be a shibboleth, if (say) a British author put British words in an American character's mouth.

An American character in his book calls his phone a "mobile." We call them "cell phones" on this side of the pond. Based on his shibboleth, I'm pretty sure the author is from the UK.

Disclosure ok by the author

(Media) bias

When an author writes a review or an editorial, the author reveals his or her bias.

Here is a brief section from Wikipedia's Media Bias.

Media bias is the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of many events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed.

At the moment, there are major conflicts between Israel and Hamas. Based on the editorial board's media bias, they don't represent Hamas.


One, somewhat formal, way of saying this is idiolect, which you might think of as combining the idio- from idiosyncratic with the -lect of dialect

  • Idiolect is normally used for the way of speaking/writing of a much narrower group than what the OP has in mind.
    – jsw29
    Jun 1, 2021 at 16:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.