How are my e-mails received?


Your e-mails matter. So, before you hit “Send” on your next missive, consider this interesting study.


Chelsea Rae De Jonge and Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois co-authored a study published in Social Psychological & Personality Science, that looks at three elements of e-mail that shape how others perceive us.  The three elements examined are: first person versus third person, typographical errors, and punctuation.


When this study was first published in 2010, the Montreal Gazette interviewed the authors and the professors summarized their findings by saying:


“Very subtle little things you might not think about when writing an email -like the kind of punctuation you use, for example -actually have an effect on the people reading that message. If you’re emailing a friend, they’re not going to change their opinion of you based on how the message is put together. But for first impressions, we find these three elements really matter.”


The study findings include:

  • Emails written in the third person conveyed a sense of formality that caused study participants to believe the message had come from someone in a supervisory position. It also saw readers presume the sender was angry, as opposed to the perceived intimacy of first-person emails.
  • Emails riddled with errors gave readers the impression that the sender was apathetic. This is so particularly with an older demographic that, unlike younger people did not grow up with text-messaging. Older people make stronger judgments about the intellect of the person sending the message id they see typographical and grammatical errors.
  • Punctuation proved highly influential in moulding people’s opinions. E-mails with no question marks or exclamation points were perceived as being sent by a superior, while those that included lots of question marks and exclamation points were interpreted as coming from a subordinate. In general, question marks conveyed anger and confusion, while exclamation points, as you might expect, communicated happiness. The absence of both types of punctuation implied apathy, and a high frequency of such punctuation caused readers to assume the sender was female.


So, before you hit “Send”, reread what you have written and correct your typos and grammar errors!


Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

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