UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Do Northerners talk more than Southerners?

9 April 2015

Twitter and the UK

There is a common stereotype that people in the North of England talk more than those in the South.

The perception is, that folk living north of some, indeterminate line that separates north from south, are friendlier than their southern counterparts and hence end up talking more. Of course there are many contradictory elements, such as the taciturn northern farmer or the chatty London cabby.

But for many this idea has held firm over many generations supported by countless anecdotal comments. The notion is not unique to England and probably replicated in other countries as well as between regional divisions within many countries. The scientific question is whether we can substantiate such claims.

Does Twitter hint at an answer?

Motivated by the availability of new data and the possibility of observing a North v South divide a team, led by UCL's Professor Steven Bishop, compared the length of conversational tweets (replies) messages posted from various geographical groupings in the UK.

The stereotype that people from Northern England talk more than those from Southern England is not observed on Twitter, an analysis of the length of Twitter messages has revealed.

In a large scale Big Data study, which counted over more than 3 million tweets posted over three years, a north-south divide was not observed.

For some geographical groups the median lengths did differ - by as much as 2 characters - which seems small but, when counted over this large data set, the difference is significant.

Instead of a divide between North and South, the study showed that a division grouping the Midlands with Scotland, compared to the rest of UK is visible.

The messages were also grouped by latitude.

UCL research associate and lead author Dr. Christian Alis, describes the study as exemplifying the "potential of big data" to test long-held beliefs but warns that "further studies are clearly needed in conjunction with other social science studies."


The study is published in a paper entitled "Quantifying regional differences in the length of Twitter messages" by Alis et al., in the journal PLOS ONE.

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Outline of the UK superimposed on the Twitter logo © Twitter

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Science contact

Christian Alis
UCL Mathematics

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Oli Usher
UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
020 7679 7964