People Who Point Out Grammatical Errors Are Jerks, Says Study

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"I can't hear you when you don't use good grammar," my friend Steve's wife, Carol, says to him regularly. 

Yes, she's one of those people who absolutely can't resist showing off their impressive grammatical skills.

She's a nice person, even if she's constantly pointing out the difference between "their," "there" and "they're," and loses her sense of hearing when someone is saying something incorrectly. I wonder if she points out errors in emails as well?

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A study from the University of Michigan found that people who become the grammar police are huge jerks (to put it scientifically) and that their behavior is partially the result of certain personality traits. 

For instance, extroverted people are more likely to overlook typos and grammatical errors, while introverted people have a tendency to judge people who make these kinds of errors harshly.

For the study, 83 participants were asked to look at email responses to an ad for a roommate.

Some of these emails had been changed to include either typos, such as mkae (make) or abuot (about), or grammar errors, such as to/too, it's/its or your/you're. (My spell check is having a heart attack right now.)  

After the participants looked at the emails, they were questioned about whether or not they noticed the errors. If they answered "yes," they were asked to elaborate on their answer.

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The researchers found that those participants who had been determined less agreeable were the most disturbed by the errors, and the subjects who were thought to have a more agreeable personality were more likely to overlook typos.

Agreeability is a technical term from a set of psychological measurements known as the Big Five Personality Index (BFI). Agreeability is described as trusting, generous, sympathetic, cooperative, and not aggressive or cold.

"This is the first study to show that the personality traits of listeners/readers have an effect on the interpretation of language," said Julie Boland, University of Michigan professor of linguistics and psychology, and the lead author of the study "In this experiment, we examined the social judgments that readers made about the writers."

Those subjects who rated down the emails with errors were more judgmental about the writer of the email, too.

"Agreeability was the only personality trait to have a main effect on the Housemate Scale," the study reads. "Participants who tested as more agreeable on the BFI tended to rate the paragraphs more positively overall than participants who tested as less agreeable."

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Now maybe my spell check and grammar apps can stop freaking out.

Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and astrology lover. She has written over 500 articles on the zodiac signs and how the stars influence us. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Woman's Day, and is a contributing writer for Ravishly, I AM & CO, and YourTango. Check out her Facebook writer's page and her Instagram.