Mullane Literary Associates

The Secret Life of Pronouns by James Pennebaker

The Secret Life of Pronouns James Pennebaker

Read more about James Pennebaker’s work at:

Analyze your own words at

Praise for James Pennebaker's The Secret Life of Pronouns

Interesting and provocative...A good nonfiction book often feels like a new lens prescription: You marvel at suddenly being able to see what was always there. On this count...The Secret Life of Pronouns succeeds. You find yourself paying a greater degree of attention to even the least-regarded words of daily apt reminder that we express ourselves in more ways than we know.”

The Wall Street Journal

Pennebaker transforms simple words (pronouns, prepositions, articles) into revealing windows into the emotions and social relations of speakers and writers using them.... Pennebaker keeps his focus on the social psychology of language, showing how that psychology plays out at the personal level among friends, neighbors, and lovers, and at the national level among prominent politicians and media commentators. An extraordinary look at ordinary words.“


[Pennebaker's] accessible, entertaining account dissects a riotous assortment of language samples, from presidential speeches and Shakespeare to Beatles songs and Lady Gaga tweets, expounding on everything from the self-absorbed ‘language of suicidal poets’ to the circumlocutions of liars.... Pennebaker’s take on the unexpected importance of throw-away words is the kind of fun pop linguistics readers devour.“

Publishers Weekly

Lively and accessible....The under-the-radar sneakiness of function words actually makes them uniquely suited to Pennebaker’s wide-ranging research goals, which focus on uncovering traces of our social identity and individual psyche in everyday language use. .... Pennebaker [is] an indefatigable guide to the little words that he boldly calls ‘keys to the soul.’ ”

The New York Times Book Review

“More than a century ago, in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Sigmund Freud speculated that we often say—and mean—more than we consciously know. Working at the intersection of psychology and linguistics, Pennebaker carries on that fascinating inquiry.... The Secret Life of Pronouns is studded with muse-worthy examples of language’s hidden power.”

Dallas Morning News

Convincing and compelling...Essential reading for psychotherapists and readers interested in the connection between language and human behavior, emotion and perception.”


Pennebaker is a wonderful and often wry guide.... We make words when we speak and write—and in another way they turn out to make us and reveal who we are....Very well written.... Insightfully clever.”

Contemporary Psychology
(American Psychological Association)

“Pennebaker has become a pioneer in the use of computer-based text analysis to study psychology. Anyone who reads his book will become much more conscious about how he or she uses words when talking to friends, when talking to the public, or when writing for the public.... Pennebaker’s new book is fascinating and fun.”

Austin American-Statesman

Is it possible for a psychologist to hear just a few words from you and immediately know what makes you tick? Could this psychologist use cutting-edge science to detect your inner desires from subtle patterns in your use of language—beyond anything you were conscious of saying? The answer to both questions is yes. James Pennebaker is this psychologist and you really ought to read his remarkable book.”

Daniel Wegner, Harvard University, author of The Illusion of Conscious Will

Entertaining and sharply illuminating...Pennebaker shows that the words you use in everyday talk reveal surprising insights into personality, social relationships, status, leadership, sex, and human nature.... He is one of the smartest, funniest, and most creative psychologists you will ever meet.”

Dan P. McAdams, Northwestern University, author of
George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait

About the Author

James W. Pennebaker is the chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. A pioneer in the use of computer-based text analysis to study psychology, he is the author of Writing to Heal and Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, which has been translated into a dozen languages. His findings have been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and many other publications around the world. For more about James Pennebaker’s work, visit