How do typos (e.g., teh) and homophonous grammar errors (grammos, e.g., to/too, it’s/its) influence a person’s perception of you? Professors Julie Boland and Robin Queen from the UM Department of Linguistics just published research on these effects in, "If You're House is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages.” Their work was published in PLoS ONE, an open access journal, allowing the paper to be freely available.
The authors build on research conducted in the past that focuses on real-world implications of written errors in things such as loan requests and consumer behavior. However, they depart from past knowledge in being the first to examine how the personality traits of the readers affect the impact of typos and grammos. They also add the dimension of language interpretation to the understanding of the relationship between personality and language.
The increasing prevalence of social media means that we often encounter written language characterized by both stylistic variation and outright errors. How does the personality of the reader modulate reactions to non-standard text? Experimental participants read ‘email responses’ to an ad for a housemate that either contained no errors or had been altered to include either typos (e.g., teh) or homophonous grammar errors (grammos, e.g., to/too, it’s/its). Participants completed a 10-item evaluation scale for each message, which measured their impressions of the writer. In addition participants completed a Big Five personality assessment and answered demographic and language attitude questions. Both typos and grammos had a negative impact on the evaluation scale. This negative impact was not modulated by age, education, electronic communication frequency, or pleasure reading time. In contrast, personality traits did modulate assessments, and did so in distinct ways for grammos and typos.