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Abstract

Using literature from impression formation and social information processing theory, we examine the impact of communication style on impression formation and durability in a mediated environment. We leverage common writing styles found in workplace emails—emoticons, uppercase, lowercase, typographical errors—to examine how message receivers evaluate senders using these styles. Via a lab experiment with 748 subjects, including undergraduate students, graduate students, and working professionals, we found that impressions were associated with writing style beyond the email content. Receivers perceived senders of emails containing emoticons, errors, or written entirely in uppercase or lowercase as less functionally competent. They also perceived senders as less methodologically competent when emails used emoticons and less politically competent when emails were all lowercase or contained errors. They perceived senders using a neutral writing style as less sociable than senders using emoticons. In contrast to impression durability in face-to-face environments, receivers positively revised impressions when senders changed their style to neutral from any of the non-neutral styles. We attribute this difference to two characteristics of the IT artifact: symbol variety and reprocessability.

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