Catch A Lie In An Email Or Text Message By Looking For These Red Flags


Catching a liar in person usually means looking for a variety of nonverbal cues, but that’s not as easy when it’s written in a text message or email. For that, The Wall Street Journal suggests looking for subtle changes in how someone words things.

Detecting a lie over text is tough, but you can watch out for a variety of red flags. Here are just a few of them:

  • Watch for when a writer omits personal pronouns from a story
  • Look for noncommittal expressions (probably, pretty sure, must have)
  • Changes in tense can signal a lie in an otherwise true story
  • Uncharacteristic speech can indicate a lie
  • Abrupt changes of topics are often used to move the topic away from a lie
  • Look for too much insignificant detail
  • Qualifier statements like “to be honest” and “as far as I remember” can signal a lie

It’s not nearly as easy as spotting a lie in person, but it can be done. None of the above red flags guarantee a lie — context matters. Still, they’re often good indicators.

How to Tell If Someone Is Lying to You in an Email [The Wall Street Journal]


  • Of course that assumes the person knows how to use tense and pronouns correctly in the first place.

  • Newman, Pennebaker, Berry & Richards (2003). Lying words: Predicting deception from linguistic styles. Personality and Social PsychologyBulletin, 29, 665-675.

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