The effect of errors and Dutch-, English-, and Arabic-sounding names in application letters written in English (L2) on the evaluation of Dutch readers.

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Errors in writing bother most people; the Dutch, for example, are very bothered by errors in writing. The Dutch are generally proficient in English, and errors may therefore bother them equally in their first as in their second language. As English is an important business language in the Netherlands, job applications may be written in English. Errors in application letters have been shown to lead to a negative evaluation of the text and the writer when the process is in Dutch. However, when the process is in a second language, errors may be evaluated differently. Furthermore, earlier research has demonstrated that applicants with a name that indicates an ethnic minority are hired less often than the minority population in the Netherlands, regardless of their letter or résumé. This study aims to determine whether errors in application letters written in a second language influence Dutch readers’ evaluation of the writer and the text, and whether these evaluations differ when the applicant has a Dutch, English, or Arabic name. A total of 300 participants were given a questionnaire with one of six versions of an application letter containing errors or not and signed by a Dutch, English, or Arabic name, followed by 48 questions. The letters with errors resulted in a more negative evaluation of the writer and the text, and letters with an Arabic name were evaluated more positively on hirability than letters with an English name, and evaluated more positively on competence than letters with and English or Dutch name. In conclusion, Dutch readers are bothered by errors in a second language, yet they evaluate applicants with an Arabic name more favourably when the letter is in English. Applying in English rather than Dutch may therefore be something to consider for equalizing chances for applicants with Arabic-sounding names.
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