Soon after Apple's iPhone went on sale six years ago this week, you probably started spotting hastily-written emails appended by the words "Sent from my iPhone." And then, a bit later, you spotted a lot more. Of course, the iPhone was not the first email-enabled smartphone to attach such a message to outgoing emails. So did various Treo handsets (remember those?) and BlackBerry phones, pre- and post-iPhone. The iPhone's instant success, and its default signature, simply made the practice far more prevalent. Alongside this trend, a different but related one emerged: the iPhone's stock signature, at first deemed a louche emblem of status, became a built-in forgiveness clause. Please don't judge me for any typos or spelling errors, "Sent from my iPhone" suggested. I am very busy. That's according to a chart published on Tuesday by the author Clive Thompson, who drew data from a 2012 Stanford study on the perceived credibility of misspelled emails sent with (and without) a "Sent from my iPhone" signature:
Thompson comments on the findings of the study, which asked a group of Stanford students to assess the credibility of emails, some of which had the signature, others of which did not:
When the message had correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, the sender was rated as being very credible — and there was little difference between whether the email seemed to have been composed on a computer or a phone. But when the message had errors in it, things changed: Students attributed higher credibility to the person who’d written the lousy message on a phone.
For these results, Thompson credits "linguistic code-switching" — whereby people speak differently among friends, family, and coworkers — and theorizes that the prevalence of AutoCorrect software has, paradoxically, made misplaced words and punctuation more acceptable in digital communication. (But no less funny.)