Typos

Just emailed someone wishing them a “happy birhtday”? You can consider that friendship finished.

Researchers from University of Michigan have just released the results of a study looking at the vitally important issue of whether people think less of you as a result of your typos. And it turns out that what you’ve feared all along is true: every time you write “there” instead of “their,” people lose a little more of the respect they once had for you.

To test how people react to typos, the researchers asked each participant in the study to read one of three versions of a fake response to a Craigslist ad for a housemate – either a version with no errors, a version with typos or a version with “grammos” (misused homophones).

The fake email used was:

Hey! My name is Pat and I’m interested in sharing a house with other students who are serious abuot (about) there (their) schoolwork but who also know how to relax and have fun. I like to play tennis and love old school rap. If your (you’re) someone who likes that kind of thing too, maybe we would mkae (make) good housemates.

Once they’d read one version of the email, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire evaluating the potential housemate. Specifically, they rated how strongly they agreed with statements like “I think I would be friends with this person,” “the writer would be a good housemate,” etc.

When all the responses were tallied up it turned out that participants who read versions of the email with typos (make/mkae) and grammos (your/you’re) gave lower scores to the potential housemate than participants who read the version without errors. Moreover, typos negatively affected people’s view of the housemate about three times as much as grammos.

In other words, grammos make you look bad and typos make you look even worse.

That said, some people were more irritated by the mistakes than others. So the researchers also gave participants a personality questionnaire to see whether certain kinds of people tended to be more judgmental about typos and grammos.

Some of the interesting trends that showed up:

  • Introverts judged the typos quite harshly compared to extraverts. Introverts were also more bothered by grammos.
  • More agreeable people didn’t care about grammos at all although they still cared about typos.
  • Both more conscientious people and less open people cared more about typos but not about grammos. (Side note: dear conscientious people, I know I’ve been a little hard on you this week. Don’t worry, I’ll write something nice about you soon!)
  • Extraverts who said grammar was more important to them were paradoxically more lenient when it came to typos.
  • People’s age and level of education didn’t affect how they reacted to the mistakes. The amount of time they spend reading or using some form of electronic communication also didn’t matter.

I guess the takeaway, then, is that people think less of you for your typos, and introverted, disagreeable, conscientious people really think less of you.

So does all this mean that if you’re someone who likes to play fast and loose with the English language when it comes time to send a text message, you’re doomed to a lifetime of ridicule and derision?

Not necessarily. After all, the study looked at people reading an email from someone they’d never met before, and chances are that people you know better are less likely to make sweeping character judgments based on a misplaced vowel.

But it does mean that if you’re introducing yourself to someone over email and asking if they want to be housemates, you should probably do a quick read-through before clicking “send”!

What d’you thank? Please comment belwo!

(Did I get you?)

Image: FreeImages.com/chris howell