What people think when your emails contain grammar mistakes

writerjmawork/flickr Im a cognitive psychologist who studies language comprehension. If I see an ad for a vacation rental that says Your going to Hollywood! it really bugs me. But my collaborator, Robin Queen, a sociolinguist, who make studies how language use varies across social groups, is not annoyed by those errors at all. We were curious: what makes our reactions so different? We didnt think the difference was due to our professional specialties. So we did some research to find out what makes some people more sensitive to writing mistakes than others.

What prior research tells us Writing errors often appear in text messages, emails, web posts and other types of informal electronic communication. In fact, these errors have interested other scholars as well. Several years before our study, Jane Vignovic and Lori Foster Thompson , who are psychologists at North Carolina State University, conducted an experiment about vetting a potential new colleague , based only on an email message. College students who read the email messages perceived the writer to be less conscientious, intelligent and trustworthy when the message contained many grammatical errors, compared to the same message without any errors.

And at our own University of Michigan, Randall J. Hucks, a doctoral student in business administration, was studying how spelling errors in online peer-to-peer loan requests at LendingTree.com affected the likelihood of funding. He found that spelling errors led to worse outcomes on multiple dimensions. In both of these studies, readers judged strangers harshly simply because of writing errors. Typos vs. grammos Over the last several years, we conducted a series of experiments to investigate how written errors change a readers interpretation of the message, including the inferences that the reader makes about the writer.

For our original experiments , we recruited college students to be our readers, and for our most recent experiment , we recruited people from across the country who differed widely in terms of age and level of education. In all of our experiments, we asked our participants for information about themselves (e.g., age, gender), literacy behaviors (e.g., time spent pleasure reading, texts per day), and attitudes (e.

g., How important is good grammar?

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