New Year’s Resolution: Send Smarter E-mails

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Recipients won’t just judge your e-mail, they’ll judge you – or so says a new study Illinois’ Knox College that looks into the effect of e-mails on how others perceive you. It may seem redundant to school readers of a blog called Techland on proper e-mail usage, but as I receive more and more e-mails in my professional life that read as though they were written by strung-out children, this should be a welcome refresher course. (Or at least something to forward to the habitual offenders in your life.)

(More on Techland: How To Turn Your Handwriting Into A Font)

The study, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Social Psychological & Personality Science, suggests that e-mail users are judged by their correspondence on everything from narrative mode, grammar or typographical errors, even their choice punctuation.

Emails typed in the third person were read as too formal, according to the study, and often came across as angry or distant, while error-ridden notes gave readers the sense that the author was indifferent to the information they were writing about. “Younger people are accustomed to (typographical errors), whereas someone older might take it more personally, or make stronger judgments about the intellect of the person sending the message,” co-author Frank McAndrew told the Montreal Gazette, though the most interesting perception came down to simple punctuation. Study participants assumed e-mails sent without superfluous punctuation were from superiors, while those with excessive question marks or exclamation points were believed to be sent from subordinates, or, from women. “I guess it’s the old stereotype of women being more expressive and emotional. A text message or email that’s chock-full of question marks and exclamation points comes across as a little girlie, for lack of a better way to phrase it,” McAndrew told the Gazette. “Real men don’t use punctuation; they use caveman-like direct, short sentences.”

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