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Home / News

How to become an e-mail extrovert

2003-11-04 14:43:03

The system helps people to sound extroverted, emotional or engage in tough-talking.

The idea has grown out of research being carried out by Alastair Gill at Edinburgh University.

The 27-year-old has been studying personality and language, particularly in regard to emails.

The system works like a standard spellchecker, using data which has been gathered on the linguistic features of different personality types.

"Rather than grammatical style it highlights things that project a particular personality," Mr Gill told BBC News Online Scotland.

Research project

"You specify in advance what sort of personality you want your e-mail to portray and it can highlight things that contradict that.

"It will also suggest alternatives that fit in more with the kind of character you are trying to project."

Mr Gill has been working on his PHD research for the last four years, although the idea of the software emerged about a year ago.

A lot more individual character can come across in an e-mail Alastair Gill The idea of a device which would let people know how they were seen by others followed the identification of the different characteristics. "Politicians are always conscious about how they come across in speeches and it is something that we are all conscious of to a certain extent," he said.

"In my research I found that people are very good at identifying a particular personality of an unknown author of an e-mail.

"It is something that we thought was quite intriguing and quite exciting."

E-mails were found to be particularly useful for gauging personality traits because they are not as formal as traditional letters.

"A lot more individual character can come across in an e-mail," he said.

Working prototype

For example, an extrovert tends to be more informal in his or her messages.

That can manifest itself through exclamation marks and multiple punctuation and the use of the word "hi" rather than "hello" and the expression "take care".

Mr Gill said the team was still more interested in the research aspect of the project, but had created a working prototype to show people the system in action.

It is also looking into patenting the software, which he hopes to expand to identify other personality traits.

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