grammar check
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
April 2, 2024 ·  3 min read

People Who Point Out Grammar Mistakes Are Jerks According To This Study

When you receive an email or are scrolling through your various social media apps, do you notice when people make grammar mistakes? If yes, how much does it bother you? Is it annoying enough to make you actually comment back and correct them, or do you just silently judge them and keep going? According to this 2016 study, the way you respond to grammar errors actually says a lot about your personality. (1)

Science Says People Who Correct Grammar Mistakes Are Jerks

A 2016 study done by researchers at the University of Michigan found that people who point out grammar mistakes are more likely to have less agreeable personalities. (1) This is a study connecting personality traits to people’s responses to errors. (2)

“This is the first study to show that the personality traits of listeners/readers have an effect on the interpretation of language,” said study lead author and U-M professor of linguistics and psychology Julie Boland. “In this experiment, we examined the social judgments that readers made about the writers.” (2)

The Study

The study involved 83 participants who read email responses to an ad for a roommate. Some of the responses contained no errors, while others contained various typos and grammar mistakes. (1) The participants then rated the applicants in terms of (1):

  • Perceived intelligence
  • Friendliness
  • How good of a housemate they would be
  • Other attributes

In the end, they were asked if they noticed any errors and, if so, how much those mistakes bothered them. (1)

From there, the participants completed the Big Five personality test. (1) This test determines where the participants fall on a scale of (3):

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion (how outgoing they are)
  • Agreeableness (how friendly they are)
  • Neuroticism (how sensitive or nervous they are vs confidence and resilience)

Lastly, they were asked questions on the age, background, and attitude towards language. (1)

The Results

Everyone in the study gave the applicants with grammar mistakes lower ratings than those without any. What the researchers noticed, however, was how much harsher people with certain personality traits judged those with grammar mistakes than some of the other participants. (1)

Introverts were more likely to pass judgment on the applicants who made errors versus extroverts who were more likely to overlook them. Those who scored as conscientious but less open were also more sensitive to the mistakes. Lastly, those who scored low in the “agreeableness” category were also more upset by the grammar errors and typos. (1)

In fact, the level of agreeability had the most impact on how much or how little participants judged the applicants based on their grammar. (1)

“Less agreeable participants showed more sensitivity to grammos than participants high in agreeability, perhaps because less agreeable people are less tolerant of deviations from convention.” the research team wrote. (1)

All results were found to be independent of age, biological sex, and other demographic factors. (1)

Pointing Out Grammar Mistakes: The Bottom Line

Just because you take grammar seriously doesn’t mean you’re a jerk, and just because you’re extroverted doesn’t mean you are not, at least sometimes, judgemental of others. However, if you do find yourself with an urge to correct someone’s grammar online, perhaps that is a moment you should let slide.

After all, maybe it was an innocent mistake, autocorrect, or perhaps English isn’t their first language. Even if it was due to an actual lack of proper grammar knowledge, unless you’re editing a paper or they’ve requested feedback, you should probably just keep it to yourself.

Keep Reading: Women Are Sharing Their ‘I’m The Client, Not My Husband’ Stories And To Say I’m Fuming Would Be An Understatement

Sources

  1. If You’re House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages.” Journals. Julie E. Boland, Robin Queen. March 9, 2016.
  2. Personality influences how one reacts to email errors.” Umich. Jared Wadley. March 29, 2016.
  3. The Big Five Personality Model.” Truity