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.

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“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. 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!😊

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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