Psychology

If You Are A Grammar Nazi, Scientists Have Bad News For You

Grammar Nazi, someone who constantly points out grammatical errors s/he observes online, has less agreeable personalities than the one who overlooks errors.

Grammar Nazi, or someone who constantly points out typos and grammatical errors he or she observes online has “less agreeable” personalities than the one who overlooks the errors, according to a new study. And, such people are generally less open, and are more likely to judge you for your mistakes more negatively than anyone else.

The study was carried out by researchers at University of Michigan, and is the first to show that an individual’s personality traits can actually determine how one reacts to typos and grammatical errors.

“This is the first study to show that the personality traits of listeners/readers have an effect on the interpretation of language,” says the study’s lead author, Julie Boland, in a news release. “In this experiment, we examined the social judgments that readers made about the writers.”

For the study, the researcher asked 83 participants to read email responses to an ad for a housemate. The emails either contained no errors or had been altered to include either typos, such as “mkae” instead of “make,” or “abuot” instead “about”, or grammar errors, such as “to/too,” “it’s/its,” or “your/you’re.”

Grammar Nazi Cat

The participants then rated the email writers based on their perceived intelligence, friendliness and other attributes, as well as provided information about themselves. At the end of the experiment, they were asked if they noticed any typos or grammatical errors in the responses. If the participants answered “yes,” they showed how much the errors bothered them.

They found that extroverted people are much more likely to overlook typos and grammatical errors, whereas introverted people were more likely to judge the person who makes such errors more negatively because of them. And as expected, participants who reported grammar being important at the beginning of the experiment were more likely to be bothered by grammatical errors at the end.

“In addition, less agreeable people are more sensitive to grammatical errors, while more conscientious and less open people are sensitive to typos,” the researchers said. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS One

Reference: If You’re House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages

43 comments

  1. Why wouldn’t you want to be corrected? I thought education was a good thing…Ignorance is not bliss. If you’re not sure there are spell-check and grammar apps. Alternatively, just don’t post.

  2. I like that this study looks at personality traits associated with those obsessed with grammar. What I’ve also wondered is why it seems more important to correct the grammar, than to stay on topic. I know it may not be considered pathological, but when someone is in dialogue or rather response to a question in an informal setting it seems tangential to deviate from the topic.

  3. also people with autism are grammar Nazis. its hard for them…things have to be set.. even semantics is troublesome for some people with autism. and layers in expression,artful expressions.
    there is social intelligence as well as intellectual. so some will miss the points in favor of the correction.

    1. As someone on the spectrum… I’m hopeless with spelling and grammar… I do speak French and Spanish as well as English. I also adore all math.. And I love to read… Not everyone with autism is particular about spelling or even good at it

  4. Well, I am a bit of a Grammar Nazi, but I correct with humor and just internally sigh and (unless I am with the ‘offender’) roll my eyes. On the other hand, I have a friend who an ΓΌber Grammar Nazi and although she can be funny and engaging, she does fit the profile as she is rather obsessed with “being right” which causes her to be perceived as hard to get along with because she has trouble letting certain things slide.

  5. Are those people putting the article together LAZY or opinionated in and of themselves. Yes, I do not always type correctly, but I try to. It pisses me off when there are 3 to 20 spelling mistakes in 4 lines of writing that are about 40 words. If you made 3 mistakes in speech with one or two sentences you may be excused, but if half of what you type is done incorrectly you are demonstrating laziness and a lack of care for those who may read your words. For every time a word is written it is left behind for others to read and see. If you write, but don’t care for the readers, why are you writing at all?

  6. I wouldn’t go so far as to troll around websites correcting their grammar, but I’m a grammar nazi in that I think less of people if their grammar is bad or they can’t spell. It horrifies me that I see so many mistakes in newspapers and online articles written by journalists. I simply can’t understand how, if you enjoy the written word so much that you want to write, you don’t take the trouble to learn the language properly.

  7. Wow! I’m impressed. The way most of us communicate in the digital era is in writing. Online. Expecting something that’s reasonably well written now makes us Nazis? I have a couple of all purpose words for that.

  8. While I’m not a grammar nazi, I do pay attention to how a person speaks. It drives me crazy if people use terrible grammar when they talk(even worse if it’s like “hillbilly talk. Although, I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty critical. However, I’m working on that! Thank you for stopping by my blog. I love science and technology too!😊

  9. I notice things like bad grammar but so rarely mention it. I know it is easy to do when one is in a rush and there are those who are ‘education-lacking’, so rather than hurt someone’s feelings – I move on.

  10. Interesting, thank you for relaying the study. (Though I’m curious how they so definitively decided whether someone was an extrovert or introvert.) Now we just need to avoid the temptation to cram this type of “people A are more likely to” studies into more of our beloved (and nearly always flawed) dichotomies.

  11. I like when I’m not a statistic. I’m an introvert, an English teacher and I am not a grammar Nazi. Unless I am trying publish or correcting papers, I could care less about a few errors or type-o’s. In undergrad, I called myself a grammar anarchist. I only put effort into correcting grammar on student papers because I feel like I am leaving my students at a disadvantage if I don’t. They need to be able to impress the grammar nazis in the job market…and it can be a good tool if you are writing flash fiction or a brief but potent cover letter. However, content and ideas, not grammar, are the criteria I would use to evaluate someone based on writing.

    1. Thank you! In the linguistics world, we studied about the discrimination associated with dialect. I often find this is the case and social media is not formal writing, but rather an extension of verbal language.

  12. It would seem by your reasoning that you think that someone that gives a hungry person a fish is nicer than someone that teaches a hungry person to fish.

    It is nice to be nice but that doesn’t eliminate the importance of taking risks, sharing values, and promoting excellence in word and deed. Offering constructive and corrective advice doesn’t have to be mean (or the province of the jerk). In the same way, ignoring and/or enabling mistakes isn’t necessarily nice, or devoid of judgment. It could, in fact, be described as a lack of true caring.

    The blade of the knife only gets sharpened when it comes into contact with the millstone. Otherwise it can only become dull and useless.

  13. If I was going to write an article whining about Grammar Nazis, I’d really try to open with a coherent sentence. I wouldn’t leave out an article where one is needed, or mix a singular subject with a plural object.

    That’s what I think.

  14. Being a copyeditor, I think most typos could be avoided if authors had the opportunity to have their work read by someone else. Most people understand the difference between homonyms, but we rush to get the message out because, on the internet, content is king. Reminds me of the Alan Greeenspan quote, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Nobody’s perfect…

  15. I majored in English, was always a great speller, and know grammar. That doesn’t make me introverted or hypercritical. It makes me a person who cares that our language is used properly.

  16. A truly twerpine study. Extroverts also have big, round, childish handwriting and are more likely to to their i’s with little hearts and flowers. Good for them, I say (editor since 1972). Which is no excuse for the Internet, which gives an equal voice to the psychopathic, sociopathic, butt-ignorant, and anencephalic. If you frequent the garbage heaps that are most online comment threads, don’t be surprised to find your mood and consciousness pulled down by the general dreckiness. There’s a place, and a real argument, for curated content.

  17. Ppppffft. I am extroverted, and I am very kind. I just happen to be a writer, so grammar mistakes stick out to me. So, I call bs. And, it should read, “…Such types of people,” not, “…Such type of people.” Have some respect for your craft.

  18. They found that extroverted people are much more likely to overlook typos and grammatical errors, whereas introverted people were more likely to judge the person who makes such errors more negatively..”

    I don’t judge the person negatively(just that they are stupid, dumb, uneducted and ignorant). I judge the writing negatively. Errors certainly unacceptable in high school, college, literature and professional writing. Seems to me it is that English majors that become teachers have not learned grammar either as it is not taught and they take all kinds of literature courses of the PC world agenda and never even learn the classics. Academia wants people to express themselves regardless of language protocols.

  19. I wonder what it says about those of us who see them, silently correct them in our heads, curse the writer and keep on reading? πŸ˜€
    *wanders off to see if the coffee makers spelled the product correctly, in pursuit of the perfect cuppa*

  20. This is an experiment, not gospel. Many more studies need to be made before verifying the findings. I use a text reader and the results of poor grammar and spelling are nothing short of painful.

    This part bothers me, “If the participants answered β€œyes,” they showed how much the errors bothered them.” It looks like the participants are being led into one conclusion. Why not ask their occupation (such as copy editor, writer or scientist) and WHY the errors bothered them? You’ll find that a certain segment of the population just want to help. If you’re a writer with a book for sale, readers don’t like to waste time reading books with a lot of errors. If your blog is filled with them, that’s one less book you’re going to sell.

    If I catch an error that could possibly cause a problem (such as clothes are “now” free instead of clothes are “not” free) I will certainly say something. That’s not being less agreeable, that’s helping someone make a change before it causes embarrassment or a riot..

    Excuse me while I go and get a glass of water. I so love to drink H2S04.

      1. Thank you for a very scientific and exceedingly polite reply.

        Sparkonit attracts many intelligent people who enjoy reading about new discoveries as well as new possibilities.

      2. Hey Joelle, don’t listen to him/her. I apologize for failing to moderate offensive comments. I will be careful next time. I hope you understand. Keep visiting Sparkonit! πŸ™‚

  21. I guess I’m just a horrible human being, then… Mistakes do bother me. I understand that in today’s society, people value speed over accuracy, but I still believe in the value of the command over the English language.

      1. Hey Jennifer! Don’t listen to him/her. I apologize for failing to moderate offensive comments. I hope you understand. Keep visiting Sparkonit. πŸ™‚

  22. Grammatical errors are not that important to me. I see it all the time on WordPress. Expressing yourself is what really matters and getting your point across is what really counts. I am sure there are some out there that would criticize how I have constructed this one paragraph.

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