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Posted on: October 15, 2018 at 3:09 pm

All right, okay, it’s time to come clean – and be honest! Does it grind your gears when people make even the tiniest grammatical error? Does your restless leg syndrome kick in or your eye start twitching… to the point where you feel a deep, intense need to correct them all? From the differences between “your” and “you’re” to “there,” “their,” and “they’re” and “where” and “wear” – don’t even get started on misspelling “the” with “teh.”

So, what’s the verdict? Does that sound like you? Because if it does, even scientists will agree that you are a jerk. (No, that’s nota typo.) A University of Michigan study published in PLOS One pretty much proved it. [1] In fact, researchers believe they can trace your “Grammar Police” behavior all the way back to specific personality traits.

So, What Makes A Grammar Police?

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83 people participated in the study which involved reading email responses to an ad for a housemate. Some responses were error-free while others included grammatical mistakes such as “teh” instead of “the” or the classic “too” vs “to” and “it’s” vs “its.” [1]

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After reading them, participants had to answer some questionnaires, one of which required them to judge the writer of the response based on the following perceived characteristics: [2]

  • I think I would be friends with this person
  • The writer would be a good housemate
  • The writer seems a lot like me
  • The writer seems friendly
  • The writer seems more sophisticated than most of my friends
  • The writer seems less intelligent than most of my friends
  • The writer seems conscientious
  • The writer seems considerate
  • The writer seems likeable
  • The writer seems trustworthy

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The other questionnaire was personality test for the participants and included the following five traits: extraversion, agreeability, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Afterwards, they were also asked whether or not they spotted any grammatical errors or typos and, if so, how much it irked them.

As you would expect, based on these combined responses, everyone gave lower ratings to people who made more typos and grammatical mix-ups. However, when it came to personality traits, researchers noticed something interesting…

Compared to extraverts who tended to let typos slide, introverts judged people who made grammatical errors more negatively and harshly. Researchers also noticed that participants who characterized themselves as less agreeable actually got more upset by grammatical errors. [3]

In other words, as Chris Weller wrote for Tech Insider, “People who correct other people’s typos can be some of the biggest nuisances around – not just because they’re pointing out flaws, but for the added conceit of thinking they’re doing you a favor.” [4]

Is there a member of the grammar police who keeps sticking their nose into your life? You may want to send the link to this article their way – but only the link. (Wouldn’t want to risk making a typo or grammatical error now, would you?)

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Or are you that member of the grammar police? If so, the next time you experience that deep-seated desire to correct someone’s typo or grammatical error, take a deep breath and reconsider… Because, ironically, your actions will speak louder than words. (And no one wants to be a jerk, right?)

[1] Boland, J. E., & Queen, R. (2016, March 09). If You’re House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26959823

[2] Boland, J. E., & Queen, R. (n.d.). If You’re House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149885

[3] MacDonald, F. (n.d.). People Who Constantly Point Out Grammar Mistakes Are Pretty Much Jerks, Scientists Find. Retrieved from https://www.sciencealert.com/people-who-pick-up-grammar-mistakes-jerks-scientists-find

[4] Weller, C. (2016, April 06). People who correct your typos are probably jerks, according this study. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/people-who-correct-typos-may-be-jerks-study-finds-2016-3

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