Sent from my iPhone

Nov 19

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Sent from my iPhoneThe question of how grammatical errors affect sender credibility is not an especially new question nor does it have an unexpected answer. Yes, much to the chagrin of many, grammatical and spelling errors in professional communication, including email, do hurt credibility. But Caleb Carr (University of Oklahoma) and Chad Stefaniak (Oklahoma State University) have asked an intriguing new question. How is credibility affected when a mobile signature block is thrown into the mix? In other words, will “Sent from my iPhone” mitigate the credibility issues arising from errors in the message?

This new question actually links back to a classic communication concept made famous by Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message.” McLuhan’s point was that each medium has intrinsic effects, independent of the content it communicates. These effects, he contended, were a message in and of themselves.

McLuhan’s assertions are evident in the results of Carr and Stefaniak’s study “Sent from my iPhone: The Medium and Message as Signals of Sender Professionalism in Mobile Telephony” presented at the National Communication Association (#NCA11). Not surprisingly, the study, grounded in signaling theory, found that regardless of the message origin, correct or incorrect grammar exerts significant influence on perception of credibility. Emails without grammatical errors, regardless of their origin were the most credible. But the interesting finding relates to the interactive relationship between grammar in the message and acknowledgement of the medium through the mobile signature block. While grammatical errors in emails sent with a mobile signature block still had lower credibility, they had higher credibility than grammatically incorrect emails sent from a desktop.

The implication is while we do use grammar as a way to gauge credibility, we are also willing to attribute grammatical errors to use of a specific medium as opposed to a person’s professionalism. The errors can be attributed to the fact the message was sent on the go, or the physical limitations of mobile devices, such as small keys. In reality, when we receive an email we really have no idea if the errors result from use of a specific medium, the fact we are willing to consider it is intriguing.

The bottom line is that our credibility is linked to the professionalism of our written communication, and it needs to be error free. But it will be interesting to see as mobile technology becomes more and more ubiquitous if we become more tolerant of errors in profession communication or less.

In the meantime, if you found any grammatical errors in this post:

Sent from my iPhone


  1. Hi Ashley,

    I love that an academic article has been written about this issue! Because it is indeed an issue. Thank you for sharing this post with me.

    The issue is definitely complicated, and I’m not sure if the right answer is for the Grammar Guardians to stay strong in the face of alterations to our beloved written word or to accept these changes as the natural progression of language.

    Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl) and Professor Trubek had an incredible discussion about Trubek’s article in favor of doing away with rigid spelling and grammar rules on Twitter yesterday. Links are below:

    Trubek’s article:

    The Twitter exchange between Grammar Girl and Trubek:



  2. I have actually considered adding ‘Mistakes and unintended gobbledygook courtesy of Siri’ to my signature.

    • Yes! Or perhaps ‘Slightly inappropriate word choice courtesy of AutoCorrect, which is apparently a 13 year-old-boy’!

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