Study Reveals People Who Point Out Grammar Mistakes Are ‘Less Agreeable’ | Men's Health Magazine Australia

Study Reveals People Who Point Out Grammar Mistakes Are ‘Less Agreeable’

“You’re, with an E, for YOU ARE!” Cue the dramatic eye roll. 

Whether spoken in conversation or sent via direct message following a slip of the thumb on your instagram story, it’s likely that we’ve all found ourselves held hostage to the pointed tongue of a grammar connoisseur. Who are these people? Who made them the Grammar Police? Unless their name is Steven Pinker and they hold the title of “bestselling linguist,” we don’t want to hear it. 

As much as we bemoan the existence of those who choose to correct our spelling and grammar mistakes every time they arise, such people do walk amongst us. And according to a recent study, our attitude towards them isn’t personal but rather something we can’t help but feel. The 2016 study, published in PLOS one, found that those that are sticklers for grammar have ‘less agreeable’ personalities than those who might just scroll on past without feeling the need to shout out your errors. 

The study sought to explore how someone’s personality traits can determine how they respond to typos and grammatical errors, with researchers suggesting it could teach us a lot about how we communicate online. According to lead researcher Julia Boland, from the University of Michigan, “This is the first study to show that the personality traits of listeners/readers have an effect on the interpretation of language.”

Boland added, “In this experiment, we examined the social judgments that readers made about writers.”

To conduct the study, researchers asked a field of 83 participants to read email responses to an ad for a housemate, which either contained no errors or had been altered to include typos or grammatical mistakes, like writing ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’, or mixing up ‘too/to’ and ‘it’s/its’.

The participants then judged the person behind the email based on their perceived intelligence, friendliness and a number of other attributes, including how good a housemate they might be. They then had to fill out a Big Five personality assessment about themselves, rating where they would be placed on a scale assessing various things like how open they were, and if they were more introverted or extroverted. 

According to the results, extroverts were more likely to ignore mistakes than introverts, while the latter were more likely to notice the errors and pass a judgement on to the writer. Those who tested as being more conscientious and less open were found to be more sensitive to typos, and those with less agreeable personalities were more annoyed by grammatical errors. 

As the researchers suggest, “Less agreeable participants showed more sensitivity to grams than participants high in agreeability, perhaps because less agreeable people are less tolerant of deviations from convention.”

They added that “more conscientious and less open people were sensitive to typos.”

So, just what can be gleaned from this study? If you find yourself having an adverse reaction to some typos on someone’s IG post, you might want to hold back on your comments and check yourself. The  typos might say more about you than the person who posted them. 

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